• 2 in 3 children surveyed by IRC showed signs of psychological distress, such as increased crying, sadness and nightmares.

  • Safety concerns for women and girls due to now crowded living situations and insufficient access to basic services.

  • More than 60% of the surveyed households identified having a head of household who was a person at risk, such as female headed household, older person or someone with chronic illnesses.

One month since a deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Türkiye and Syria on 6th February, millions of women and children now find themselves particularly at risk in northwest Syria, warns the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

A rapid protection assessment conducted by the IRC in three districts of Idleb in the northwest of Syria, highlights the difficult situation women and children are now facing following the earthquake.

With tens of thousands of buildings damaged or destroyed there is now a worrying shortage of suitable housing. Many are living with extended family members or in overcrowded collective shelters which often lack gender segregation and partitions between families. Most available shelter options also lack essential facilities such as bathrooms and toilets, with those households assessed noting that this lack of access has a disproportionate effect on the safety of women and girls. Women and girls the IRC spoke with stated that they often do not have safe or easy access to go to the bathroom, and some reported harassment as they wait to use facilities.

Children have been left deeply distressed by the earthquake and are increasingly in need of mental health and psychosocial support. 2 in 3 children were reported as having exhibited negative behavioral changes such as panic attacks or increased crying since the earthquake. While more than 50% of households stated that their children were now having nightmares as they mentally process the devastating impacts of this crisis within a crisis.

Tanya Evans, IRC Syria Country Director, says:

“In crisis settings, women and children are at particular risk of violence and exploitation, and must be supported with essential access to services such as safe spaces and medical care. 

Mental health and psychosocial support is key at this time for those who have survived the earthquake, especially vulnerable groups such as women and children. The IRC’s rapid protection assessment further shows the high need for these services, given the high prevalence of trauma and distress.

Children have been particularly affected. We spoke to one 34-year-old woman whose 9-year-old daughter is having trouble sleeping because of nightmares. She told us how she now often wakes up screaming ‘Mummy, earthquake, earthquake!’ during the night. The IRC has been working with our partners to respond quickly to this emergency and provide essential psychological first aid sessions to support women, children and caregivers on how to deal with trauma.”

Moder Almohamad, Senior Protection Manager, says:

“This devastating earthquake in Syria has undoubtedly had a significant impact on the lives of women and children in the affected areas. It is crucial that humanitarian aid efforts prioritise their needs, including access to psychosocial support, cash, healthcare, safe shelter, and education. In times of crisis, it is essential that we work together as a global community to support those who are most vulnerable and ensure that they receive the assistance they require to rebuild their lives, so as not to be left behind.”

The IRC is focusing on the most vulnerable groups following the earthquake, with a key focus on serving women and children. The IRC is providing case management services for women and children who face increased protection risks due to the crisis. We have provided over 500 psychological first aid sessions to support women, children and caregivers on how to deal with trauma, and 400 information awareness-raising sessions on the consequences of the earthquake and services available. To further respond to the increasing protection needs, we will provide cash for protection assistance, as well as hygiene, dignity, newborn and winterization kits for women and children.