Children orphaned by Turkey-Syria earthquake face uncertain future


A baby started life surrounded by chaos and devastation this week.

Apparently named Aya – which means ‘miracle’ in Arabic – she was born under the rubble of Monday’s deadly earthquake, still attached to her mother’s lifeless body by the umbilical cord when rescuers found her.

Her story certainly seems miraculous, as she survived for more than 10 hours under the wreckage of her family’s five-story building in northern Syria after it was flattened in the 7.8 magnitude quake. before dawn.

“We heard a voice while we were digging,” the baby’s cousin, Khalil al-Suwadi, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday. “We removed the dust and found the baby with the umbilical cord (intact), so we cut it and my cousin took her to the hospital.”

Tragically, the baby’s mother did not survive and is believed to have died hours after giving birth. In fact, the newborn is believed to be the sole survivor of his immediate family, his cousin told the news agency.

The newborn would be cared for by his great-uncle once released from the hospital.

Orphan Aya – believed to have been named by doctors – is currently being treated at a children’s hospital in nearby Afrin, where pediatrician Hani Maarouf told AFP she was stable but was arrived with bruises, lacerations and hypothermia.

Footage of her incredible rescue quickly went viral online and garnered international attention.

Many around the world have asked how they can adopt him. However, it has been confirmed that Aya’s great-uncle, Salah al-Badran, will take her in once she is discharged from hospital, despite the destruction of her own home in the earthquake, reported the Guardian.

According to UNICEF Emergency Communication Specialist Joe English, adoption should never happen immediately after an emergency.

“Until the whereabouts of a child’s parents or other close family members can be verified, each separated child is considered to have living close relatives,” he told CNN. “Every effort should be made to reunite children with their families when appropriate, if such reunification is in their best interests.”

Similarly, 3-year-old Tariq Haidar was pulled alive from the rubble of his home in Jandaris, northern Syria, 42 hours after the quake, Reuters news agency reported. He was taken to hospital where doctors were forced to amputate his left leg.

His family did not survive. Malek Qasida, a nurse caring for him, told Reuters: “They took out his father and two of his siblings in front of him, dead.” The bodies of his mother and a third brother were later found in the wreckage, residents said, according to Reuters.

Aya and Tariq are just two of an unknown number of children in Turkey and Syria who were orphaned following Monday’s deadly earthquake.

The initial earthquake struck just after 4 a.m. local time, when many people were sleeping.

“While we don’t have any verified numbers yet, given the catastrophic and ever-increasing death toll, it is clear that very many children will have lost their parents or guardians in these devastating earthquakes,” said English, from UNICEF.

“The urgent identification of unaccompanied children and those who may have been separated from their parents and guardians is absolutely essential so that they can receive appropriate care and support in the short term, and so that we can begin the work to locate them and reunite them with their families.

“As a result of these types of disasters, displaced children, especially those who are unaccompanied or separated from their families, are vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse, including the risk of trafficking or violence sexist.

Rescuers try to free a child trapped under rubble, following the deadly earthquake in Hatay, Turkey, February 10, 2023.

He added: “Beyond our immediate life-saving response by providing clean water, warm winter clothing, medical and nutritional supplies, UNICEF is also working with our partners to provide affected children with psychosocial support. and essential mental health, to help them overcome their experiences. and begin to address the trauma that many children may have experienced.

“This is not a short-term job and will require dedicated, long-term support as we help children and families rebuild their shattered lives.”

Meanwhile, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) – made up of 15 leading UK charities – said its member organizations would closely monitor and support unaccompanied and separated children.

“They do this by creating child-friendly spaces, offering age-appropriate psychosocial and resilience activities, specialized case management and alternative care for unaccompanied and separated children,” CNN told CNN. Madara Hettiarachchi, Director of Programs and Accountability at DEC.

Information regarding the exact number of children left without parents is still unclear. According to Turkey’s Ministry of Family and Social Services on Friday, the families of 263 children who were pulled from the rubble in Turkey could not be reached.

Among these children, 162 continue to receive treatment in the hospital, while 101 children were transferred to the competent units of the ministry and placed in institutions after their treatment.

The death toll in Turkey and Syria stands at more than 28,000, authorities said.

An excavator digs through the rubble of a house in which the entire family except for a newborn baby was killed, on February 7, 2023, in the town of Jandaris.

In Turkey, the number of people killed has risen to 24,617, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said at a press conference on Saturday. In Syria, the total death toll stood at 3,575 on Saturday.

Rescuers are racing against time to pull survivors from the rubble of collapsed buildings in freezing winter conditions.

Efforts were also hampered by blocked roads, damaged infrastructure and several violent aftershocks.

There have been incredible stories of survival. A 16-year-old boy was pulled alive from the rubble of a destroyed building in the Turkish town of Kahramanmaras, 119 hours after a devastating earthquake hit the country. A 10-year-old girl was found alive under the wreckage in Hatay province, southern Turkey, after 147 hours.

However, CNN Romania affiliate Antena 3 reporter Cristian Popovici warned on Friday that as the hours go by, incredible scenes like these will become less frequent. “The chances of that happening are less than 1%, especially given the sub-zero temperatures recorded here overnight.

“It’s really a miracle, unfortunately we see less and less of it now, but it’s happening and that’s what all these people here are working for, to continue saving lives.”

The miraculous rescues witnessed over the past week have been scenes of incredible joy mixed with sadness, as some children emerged alive from the rubble of their homes to find the rest of their immediate family did not survive. Aid agencies warn it is too early to say exactly how many children have been orphaned in the tragedy.

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