From a baby born in the rubble to a trapped teenager, many of the earthquake’s victims are children.
Khalil al Shami, 34, was digging through the rubble of his brother’s building in the Syrian town of Jinderes on Monday when he saw his sister-in-law’s legs and a baby girl still attached to her by the umbilical cord. She had given birth while she was trapped under the rubble.
Mr Shami said in an interview that he cut the dust-covered umbilical cord and the baby cried out. He said he kept digging and digging, thinking the mother was still alive too. Her sister-in-law did not survive, but her niece is safe in hospital.
“The mother was supposed to give birth the next day, but it looks like she gave birth in shock,” Mr Shami said.
In another Syrian town, video shows two little girls sandwiched under rubble, one lying on top of the other, as a man tries to dig them up. He asks them, “Do you know how to play?” and one of the little girls shouts, “No, no, take me out.”
A teenager in a dust-covered red shirt filmed himself under the twisted metal and brick that remained of his house. He said he didn’t know how to describe how he felt, not knowing if he was going to live or die. Then a scream is heard on the video.
“More than two, three families are stuck, you hear their cries and our neighbors. God help us,” the boy said in the video.
Many families, having fled their homes in freezing weather, wearing only their night clothes, take refuge in cars or public spaces like mosques and schools.
For children in Syria, the earthquake comes after 12 years of accumulated suffering from war, poverty and multiple displacement as families fled the conflict.
“It’s trauma upon trauma, it’s grief upon grief,” said UNICEF’s Mr English. “It’s a long road to recovery.”
The UN’s immediate aim is to ensure that affected children and families have access to clean water and sanitation services – essential to prevent disease at the start of a crisis – and to kits nutritional. UNICEF is also preparing to provide psychological assistance.