ECPC Global Call for Urgent Action and Support to Protect Children and Families Affected by the Recent Earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria

14 February 2023, Kirikhan, Türkiye: A woman carries her baby through a makeshift tent camp. (Boris Roessler/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
14 February 2023, Kirikhan, Türkiye: A woman carries her baby through a makeshift tent camp. (Boris Roessler/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

The ECPC Calls for Urgent Action and Support to Protect Children and Families Affected by the Recent Earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria


We reaffirm our commitments to Human Rights and the Rights of every Child as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in SDG 16.  Let us put those commitments into action with our humanitarian response to the disaster in Türkiye and Syria and uphold the Principles of Justice and equity for all.
 

► ECPC GLOBAL CALL FOR URGENT ACTION INTERACTIVE BROCHURE

Click above to read the interactive, sharable, and downloadable ECPC Global Call for Urgent Action brochure (ENG). (TK & AR coming soon)


The Global Call

THE SITUATION

The world is witnessing an alarming disaster in Türkiye and Syria, following two powerful earthquakes that struck the region on February 6, followed by more than 6,000 aftershocks that devastated 11 Turkish provinces, including cities Adana, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Malatya, and Sanliurfa. 1, 2   In north-west Syria, the Lattakia Governorates and cities Aleppo, Hama, and Idleb were severely damaged.3   As of March 5th, the combined death toll in Türkiye and Syria is reported to have exceeded 50,000 people.4  Recent appeals issued by UNICEF report that at least 9.1 million people in Türkiye are left in need including 2.5 million children, and in Syria at least 5.4 million people are in need including 2.6 million children.5, 6

Homes have been reduced to rubble, leaving millions homeless. Families are separated, suffering without access to basic life necessities—water, food, electricity, health care, and education. Highly contagious diseases such as cholera due to lack of sanitation are also emerging, compounding the suffering. Among Syrians affected, many have already experienced significant trauma, inequities, and injustices given the ongoing war.
 

IMPACT ON THE MOST VULNERABLE CHILDREN

In crises like this, children suffer first and foremost. They are the most vulnerable and have urgent health and developmental needs that go unmet. In addition to being exposed to violence, many children are experiencing loss or separation from their caregivers as well as the loss of their support systems, including health, welfare, and educational services.
 
Children are especially vulnerable to the negative impacts of disaster and crises in the early years of life when the brain undergoes its most rapid period of development. In this critical period, children with prolonged exposure to extreme stress and deprivation without adequate support can succomb to “toxic stress, which can have long term implications for their physical cognitive, behavioral, and psychosocial development.
 
All these impacts are disproportionately felt among children from marginalized groups—refugees, young girls and women, children with disabilities, low-income families, and children and youth living without parents or in rural areas already without adequate services.
 
This is a major threat to children’s lives and to their long-term health and development, the impacts of which will be felt for generations by families and their communities and countries.
 

THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT

Growing evidence from a range of crises around the world demonstrates that early childhood development (ECD) programming has the potential to mitigate these negative consequences.7  For babies and young children in humanitarian and fragile settings, access to ECD services is thus a matter of life and death. Supporting them and their caregivers is essential to ending preventable newborn and under-five deaths and fostering healthy brain development.8  It is also a key part of helping communities and countries recover from crises by breaking cycles of poverty and violence and building more peaceful and resilient societies.
 
ECD also fosters conditions necessary for long-term peace and stability and is critical in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Nurturing Care is a multi-sectoral approach for ECD that ensures health, nutrition, safety, responsive caregiving, and early learning. In regions of conflict and crises, ECD services can help build social cohesion and unite parents from disparate groups around the common goal of child welfare.In a time of recurring violent conflict and societal shocks, it is vital to invest in long-term solutions that will end cycles of violence, build strong foundations for sustainable development, and promote a Culture of Peace.
 

CALL FOR TIMELY AND DECISIVE GLOBAL ACTION AND SUPPORT

The Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC) is calling for timely and decisive global action and support, innovatively designed for sustainable solutions to prevent this tragedy from becoming a long-term crisis for affected children in Türkiye and Syria. Children and young people affected by crises need concrete action to protect and promote their rights. This is reaffirmed by SDG target 4.2; by 2030, UN Member States shall ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality ECD, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.10
 
We urge for greater investment in support of a coordinated response that will meet the unprecedented needs of this growing crisis, before it is too late. We urge donors to prioritize funding to safeguard the development and well-being of crisis-affected young children by providing for their critical needs, including:
  • safe shelter 
  • nutrition and health 
  • mental health and psychosocial support 
  • safe water and sanitation 
  • protection from human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and gender discrimination 
  • early learning, and early childhood development without discrimination.11

Global support efforts must be impartial and lasting. Every child is equally deserving of concern, dignity, safety, and support no matter their background or circumstances—whoever they are, wherever they are.

We reaffirm our commitments to Human Rights and the Rights of every Child as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in SDG 16.12  Let us put those commitments into action with our humanitarian response to the disaster in Türkiye and Syria and uphold the Principles of Justice and equity for all. The time—is now.

► Action Steps

► Our Recommendations: Short-term • Mid-term • Long-term

IMMEDIATE

  • Maintain and further invest in quality evidence-based policies and programmes that have been shown to build resilience and mitigate the harmful effects of this humanitarian disaster for families and their young children.13 
  • Ensure that essential child protection services are recognized as lifesaving and continue to be provided and made accessible to all children even during immediate disaster relief efforts. Ensure children’s experiences are safe and positive during all phases of the disaster.14  
  • Prioritize protection of young children, who in this time of crisis are highly susceptible to neglect, abuse, violence, exploitation, and stigma as their parents/caregivers experience increased instability and stress, which may result in long-term and irreversible negative consequences. 
  • Use mass media – radio, television, and social media – to promote psychosocial support, cognitive development, nutrition, physical activity, and model responsive caregiving behaviors. Ensure existing online resources are accessible and address pre-existing inequalities for children and families in these fragile contexts and conflict affected settings as in Syria. 
  • Invest in new research to understand the impact of sudden onset natural disasters on children and their families, including:
    • the adverse impact of the disaster on parents/caregivers and their ability to provide nurturing care for their children.
    • the social-emotional impact of the disaster and its long-lasting impact on children.
    • and how to strengthen protective systems at multiple levels to provide an enabling environment and ensure long term social cohesion, peace, and stability.
A more evidence-based understanding of these issues will help governments in their decision making about providing nurturing care and ensuring access to adaptive quality ECD services in safe and protected environments for all children, providing a sense of normalcy and security.15  

MEDIUM-TERM

  • Ensure an inclusive approach for all children and their families, especially those living in situations of conflict, military occupation, and fragility, including migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons, who have a right to the highest attainable standard of health.16  All children are entitled to protection for themselves and their families, including mental health and psychosocial support.17, 18, 19
  • Uphold the rights of vulnerable children and their families as communities and countries recover and rebuild in the aftermath of the disaster. Currently, there is limited support for responsive caregiving, early learning of young children, and caregiver mental health. It is vital to have ECD programmes that are multileveled, benefiting the child and parents/caregivers, the community, and institutions at national, regional, and local levels. Programmes should be safe, protective, inclusive, accessible, and most importantly, culturally sensitive, to allow children and their families the space they need to be the driving force for social change.
  • Protect women’s and girl’s rights, without discrimination, and support community-based action through gender-based analysis to favour their empowerment and social inclusion. 

LONG-TERM

  • Build on the extensive body of international research on the power of ECD to promote peace and sustainable development.
  • Invest in strengthening systems (e.g., through financial resources, capacity building, personnel training) with a holistic and whole-of-government (multi-ministry) approach.

► Our Five-point Global Call to Action
  1. Reaffirm commitment to Human Rights and the Rights of Every Child that are threatened by this disaster. 
  2. Prioritize investment in the survival, development, and protection of all children, including those living in situations of conflict, military occupation, and displacement.
  3. Protect and prioritize investments in Early Childhood Development programmes and services in the disaster response and recovery efforts to build more peaceful and resilient societies.
  4. Ensure that gender equality, inclusion and empowerment of children, parents/caregivers, families, and communities be at the centre of disaster response and recovery efforts.
  5. Implement more evidence-based policies and practices in all affected regions, ensuring that early childhood programmes and services are essential in promoting The Culture of Peace (UN Resolution /RES/74/21) and in sustaining peace. 

► References: #'s 1 - 19
  1. Omer, S. (2023, February 17). 2023 Turkey and Syria earthquake: Facts, FAQs, and how to help. World Vision. 
  2. AP News. (2023, February 19). Key developments in the aftermath of the Turkey, Syria quake. Associated Press News.
  3. UNICEF. (2023, February to May). Earthquake response for the children of the Syrian Arab Republic. New York, NY: UNICEF.
  4. UNICEF. (2023, March 5). One month on, more than 850,000 children remain displaced by deadly earthquakes in southern Türkiye and Syria. New York, NY: UNICEF.
  5. UNICEF. (2023, February). Türkiye Earthquake Response Appeal. New York, NY: UNICEF.
  6. UNICEF. (2023, February to May). Earthquake response for the children of the Syrian Arab Republic. New York, NY: UNICEF.
  7. Murphy, K.M., Yoshikawa, H., & Wuermli, A.J. (2018). Implementation research for early childhood development programming in humanitarian contexts. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1419: 90-101. doi:10.1111/nyas.13691
  8. Jeong, J., Franchett, E., Ramos de Oliveira, C., Rehmani, K., & Yousafzai, A. (2021). Parenting interventions to promote early child development in the first three years of life: A global systematic review and metaanalysis. PLoS Med., 18(5): e1003602. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003602
  9. Moving Minds Alliance. (2018). ECD and Early Learning for Children in Crisis and Conflict. London, England: Moving Minds Alliance.
  10. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. SDG 4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. New York, NY: UN DESA.
  11. Arab Network for Early Childhood Development (ANECD). (2023, February 18). ANECD Update #26 - A Tragedy Without Borders. Beirut, Lebanon: Arab Network for Early Childhood Development. 
  12. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. SDG 16 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. New York, NY: UN DESA.
  13. Murphy, K.M., Yoshikawa, H., & Wuermli, A.J. (2018). Implementation research for early childhood development programming in humanitarian contexts. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1419: 90-101. doi:10.1111/nyas.13691
  14.  UNICEF. (2023, February 28). 2.5 million children in Türkiye need urgent humanitarian assistance, says UNICEF Executive Director, following two-day visit to Türkiye. UNICEF Press.
  15. Gomez, C.J., & Yoshikawa, H. (2017). Earthquake effects: Estimating the relationship between exposure to the 2010 Chilean earthquake and preschool children’s early cognitive and executive function skills. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 38: 127-136. doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2016.08.004.
  16. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), & World Health Organization (WHO). (2018). The right to health. Fact sheet 31. Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCHR, WHO Press.
  17. United Nations General Assembly. (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Resolution 44/25. 
  18. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), & World Health Organization (WHO). (2018). The right to health. Fact sheet 31. Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCHR, WHO Press.
  19. UNICEF. (2023, February 28). 2.5 million children in Türkiye need urgent humanitarian assistance, says UNICEF Executive Director, following two-day visit to Türkiye. UNICEF Press.
► Helpful Resources

Statements, other

  1. Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN). (2023, February 16). Global Joint Statement on Supporting Children and Their Families During the Ongoing Crises in Syria and Türkiye. Washington, D.C.: ECDAN.

 Resources

  1. Amna. Earthquake Emergency Response: Training and wellbeing support for communities and frontline workers impacted by the earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye.
  2. Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN). Türkiye & Syria Action Key Resources; Key Organizations. Comprehensive list of emergency resources to support children, parents, and caregivers in crisis.
  3. Educational/training activity for Mental Health (MH) professionals and schools
    1. Instagram source for MH professionals (Turkish)
    2. Instagram posts, reels, clippings (Turkish)
  4.  Sesame Workshop:
► How to support rescue and recovery efforts
  1. Amna Earthquake Emergency Fund.  A Refugee Trauma Initiative (RTI) providing direct support to families and children who have been affected by the earthquakes.
  2. Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) Foundation.  A global medical relief organization that is working on the front lines of crisis relief in Syria, in neighboring countries, and beyond to save lives and alleviate suffering. SAMS proudly provides medical care and treatment to every patient in need.
  3. Yale Child Study Center. How to help victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Information for relief funds to help earthquake victims in Turkiye and Syria, including reliable and on-the-ground organizations for donations. 

ENDORSED BY ECPC MEMBER ORGANIZATIONS

 ECPC member organizations and affiliations


► Contact Us

For more information about our work and/or to speak with an ECPC expert about this Call to Action, please contact us at info@ecdpeace.org.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

For breaking news and to stay connected, follow us on social media. Sign up to get our E-News delivered straight to your inbox.