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Press Centre (11/2014)

Child protection training for Syrian families in emergencies

SANLIURFA, Turkey, November 2014 In a bid to establish the key needs of Syrian urban refugees in Turkey, UNICEF and the Turkish Ministry of Social Policy and Family have launched a pilot project in the country’s southern province of Sanliurfa.

Teams visited approximately 46 villages in the Suruc district, which have absorbed hundreds of refugees from Kobane (Ayn Al-Arab) during the last two months.
UNICEF representatives are specifically able to use the visits to identify any vulnerable children who may need additional care, especially those who are unaccompanied.
Decorated with bright colors and cartoons, the distributed information leaflets outline problems parents should be aware of in addition to urgent basic needs such as food and shelter.
Both the leaflets and the meeting addresses the importance of keeping children away from armed groups and their recruiters as well as the danger of the exploitation of young girls, especially in terms of underage marriage.
The team also emphasize the importance of birth registration, and the need to keep family groups together, and the availability of humanitarian relief.
Village to village briefing
In the village of Akoren, just a few kilometers from the Turkish-Syrian border, refugees voice concern for educational opportunities and access to health care — many unaware that Turkey offers free health care to all Syrian refugees, including free prescriptions. Unfortunately access to education will take longer to arrive. 
Just meters away from the meeting hall, Turkish Kurdish children play during school break time. The brightly colored swings, slides and climbing frames starkly contrast with the children desperate to go home.
The school has a capacity of 400 according to the village Mukhtar (leader) Selahattin Celikoy and serves many of the surrounding houses as well as the village itself. There is little room for the new arrivals, he said, and pointed to a low-slung dilapidated pink building across the road. “We’re thinking of turning that into a school for the children from Kobane,” he said.
Shaheeda, 49, and her 15-year-old son Mohammad left their village of Qertel, 40km east of Kobane amid the  ISIS onslaught.
They left around 50 days ago, and now the grim reality of sustained survival is kicking in.
“I don’t want him to work,” said Shaheeda Mohammad, who is very protective of her only son.
Mohammad from Kobane: “I have to earn money”
“But we have to earn money somehow.” Mohammad left school in the 9th grade three years ago. His mother Shaheeda left herself after only three years of school after her father had a disagreement with her teacher, she says.
Turkey’s laws state children can work from 15, but only in the sectors identified by Ministry of Labor and Social Security.
Shaheeda and Mohammad live with her husband’s second wife and her nine children, who Shaheeda looks upon as her own.
Like most of the children, Shinda, 10, keeps asking when they can go home. She wants to play with her cousins near Ras Al-Ain, says Shaheeda. “She’s the most depressed and cries a lot. Now we tell them that our town will be saved by good people and then we will be able to go home,” she said. 
Representing the Ministry is volunteer Asli Almaz, a kindergarten principal of six years.  Volunteers are certified by the Ministry and are usually tasked with visiting vulnerable families in the Turkish community. This is the first time they have visited Syrian refugees.
More 2000 people have been reached
She said, “The families we visited exceeded my expectations. They were very aware of the issues and were already thinking about the subjects we wanted to discuss with them. It’s always easier to provide clothing for example, but it’s very hard to tell them what will happen in the future, and what represents future risks.”
UNICEF Turkey’s Child Protection in Emergency Officer Irmak Kurttekin said, “Through this initiative, UNICEF and Provincial Directorate of Ministry of Family and Social Policies aim to increase the awareness of Syrian community on child protection related issues and identify the risk groups. We reached 2,256 people in 46 villages out of 86 in Suruç District.
“We believe that while the relevant institutions are working on meeting the basic needs of the community, providing psychosocial support through family briefing sessions are as important as these needs. Families with children were faced with a serious threat at their doors and majority of them witnessed the violence. Although they are safe now, they are still living with the news coming from their villages and waiting to see if they can go back to their homeland. During this uncertainty, they need professional support.”

Story by Isabel Hunter
Photos by K.Feyzioğlu
UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org