LONDON (Agencies): Children in Turkiye and Syria fear their “world is going to be turned upside down again” amid aftershocks following last month’s deadly earthquakes, a UNICEF official has told Sky News.
Communications specialist Joe English traveled to both countries in the wake of the disaster to help in aid relief efforts.
A series of aftershocks in Syria have added to children’s fears, he added, saying they have been left “completely on edge.”
To “give children hope for the future,” English said the reopening of schools in affected areas is “critical” as it would give them “a sense that there is something better coming down the road.” He said he saw “buildings just completely flattened, pancaked and ripped in half.”
But Syria’s civil war has complicated relief efforts and caused the mass displacement of families, many of whom have now been forced from their homes once again due to the earthquakes.
“We’re now approaching 12 years of conflict,” said English. “There was one young boy I was speaking to earlier this week, Majid, and he was 9.
“His entire childhood has been spent set against this backdrop of airstrikes and displacement, and once again being forced from his home once again, his mum having to explain to him why they can’t stay where they are. This is just the latest catastrophe.”
English recalled that Majid and his brother told him of their ambitions to work as doctors or engineers.
“And I thought that’s such a specific dream for a child. But then you look around you and you think they want to be able to help the people that they see every day,” he added.
“They want to be doctors so that they can help heal people who are injured, whether it’s by the earthquake or by the conflict.
“They want to be engineers because they’ve seen their societies destroyed over and over again, whether it is by fighting in the conflict or by these horrific natural disasters.”
The crisis in Syria, including the conflict, must continue to be talked about, English said, adding: “Hopefully we will not be in a situation in a month from now, or a year from now, where the world has moved on again.”
His comments come amid a growing cholera outbreak in Syria, which English warned could pose the “biggest risk” to children.
“It is a sad irony that you can speak to a child who has lived through 12 years of war or catastrophic earthquakes, tens of thousands of aftershocks, and the thing which could be the biggest risk to them right now is a glass of water,” he said.