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Children in quake-hit Syria face 'catastrophic threats': UN

UN warns of 'catastrophic threats' for children in earthquake-hit Syria
2 min read
The UN said millions of children in Syria face 'growing and potentially catastrophic threats' in the wake of the devastating earthquake last month.
The earthquakes caused widespread damage to schools and other essential infrastructure [source: Getty]

The United Nations warned on Thursday of grave risks to 3.7 million children in parts of war-wracked Syria affected by last month's earthquake, as the UN children's agency chief visited the country.

The February 6 quake that struck neighbouring Turkey killed more than 50,000 people, including almost 6,000 in Syria, according officials and medics.

In Syria alone, at least 8.8 million people have been affected by the devastating quake, according to the United Nations.

"The 3.7 million children in affected areas of Syria... are facing several growing and potentially catastrophic threats," the UN children's agency UNICEF said in a statement.

It cited the disaster's emotional and psychological impact as well as the increased risk of disease and "a lack of access to basic services for families left vulnerable by almost 12 years of conflict".

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UNICEF's executive director Catherine Russell, who wound up a two-day visit to Syria on Thursday, said "the children of Syria have already endured unspeakable horror and heartbreak".

The quake and aftershocks "not only destroyed more homes, schools and places for children to play, they also shattered any sense of safety for so many of the most vulnerable children and families".

UNICEF said it needed "$172.7 million to deliver immediate life-saving support for 5.4 million people, including 2.6 million children, impacted by the earthquake" in Syria.

"Providing access to essential services, like safe water, health care and psychosocial support" can help families begin to rebuild their lives, Russell added in the statement.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday urged the international community to help earthquake-hit northwest Syria, on his first ever visit to rebel-held areas of the country.

The UN has launched a $397 million appeal to help quake victims in Syria, but Tedros warned that "we are not getting as much as what is needed for this emergency".

Syria has also faced a deadly cholera outbreak that began last year.

Since 2011, Syria's war has killed nearly half a million people and forced around half of the country's pre-war population from their homes.

Many sought refuge in Turkey, including areas devastated by last month's earthquake.