Mental health crisis in Syria likely to worsen following last month’s earthquake, World Vision warns

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  • 94% of surveyed families in northwest Syria have some form of damage to their homes, and 51% have had their homes destroyed.
  • 84% said the earthquake had impacted their children’s ability to access education, leaving them at risk of abuse and exploitation.
  • Even before the devastating earthquake, research conducted by a partner in 2021 found that 100% of displaced children under 18 who were evaluated in Idlib showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Research conducted by World Vision in 2022 showed that 66% of respondents believed children were “very likely” to act on suicidal thoughts.
girl who's seemingly in despair embraced by an adult figure
Two people who sought safety in temporary shelters after their homes were either destroyed or deemed unsafe to live in. © World Vision 2023

AMMAN (March 8, 2023) – Global humanitarian organization World Vision is warning of a worsening mental health crisis in northwest Syria following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Syria and Türkiye (Turkey) one month ago. Mental health experts at World Vision who have been working in Syria since 2013 believe that the devastation and displacement resulting from the catastrophic February 6 earthquake is likely to increase the mental health needs of children and their families.

“It was a very harsh day on us,” said a 38-year-old resident of northwest Syria. “We kept looking for dead bodies under the rubble from dawn to the following night. The pavement in front of the hospital was full of dead bodies covered in black bags. Some families died and had no one to bury them … I try to hold my emotions …however… my psychological state is not good at all.”

The scale of displacement is still being determined. However, a rapid needs assessment of 322 families conducted by World Vision in northwest Syria found that 94% of surveyed families’ homes and shelters had been at least partially damaged by the earthquake, with 51% having been completely destroyed. The assessment found that 82% of these families were staying in collective shelters because of the damage. In addition, 42% reported that education facilities had been damaged in their neighborhoods, and 84% said that the earthquake had impacted their children’s ability to access education services, placing them at increased risk of child labor, child marriage and other forms of exploitation.

A study conducted by World Vision last year had already shown that 66% of respondents believed children were “very likely” to act on suicidal thoughts due to the overall stressful environment in which they were being raised. Another study, done by a World Vision partner during the escalation of violence in Idleb in 2021, found that among displaced children under 18, 100% of those evaluated had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With the additional stresses of displacement and grief caused by the earthquake and its aftershocks, such symptoms are likely to worsen or become even more prevalent.

“Mental health experts at World Vision who have witnessed horror scenarios like this unfold before, have said that this level of mental anguish and suffering, if left untreated, will lead to a mental health catastrophe that was already growing due to the protracted conflict in Syria,” said Johan Mooij, World Vision’s Syria crisis response director.

“One month on since the devastating earthquake hit Türkiye and Syria, the scale of the humanitarian response has yet to meet the enormous needs of displaced Syrian families and children who have suffered from compounded crises for almost 12 years now. It is crucial that all access channels to northwest Syria remain open, and that aid deliveries are scaled up through earmarked funding for the emergency response. Only this will ensure that children’s mental health needs are covered, and their trauma addressed.”

About World Vision

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit or follow on Twitter @WorldVisionUSA.