Syrian Children Facing Harsh Winter Weather
A young boy at a UNICEF winter supplies distribution centre in Damascus, Syria.
Another harsh winter is looming for more than eight million Syrian children living inside the war-ravaged country or as refugees around the region and beyond.
Preliminary weather forecasts indicate that this winter could be harsher than last year’s with temperatures in some mountainous areas dropping as low as minus 13°C during the coldest days of December and January.
As in recent years, storms and heavy snowfall are likely to cause hardship for families who are struggling to survive even in normal conditions.
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“These months are particularly brutal for children,” said Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “They are at higher risk of developing respiratory infections in the cold weather, and – tragically — they are also in danger when families burn plastic or other toxic materials inside their shelters to keep warm.”
Ongoing conflict has displaced more than three million children inside Syria, sometimes multiple times. In neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt more than 2, 2 million children are now living as refugees.
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Nearly five years into the crisis, many families’ financial resources are exhausted, making purchases of even essentials like warm coats and scarves impossible.
This year, UNICEF is providing a package of assistance for 2.6 million Syrian children inside Syria and across the region. The focus will be on children who have been hit the hardest, including the internally displaced and those living in hard-to-reach areas or in informal tented settlements.
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This support is in addition to ongoing programmes in health, education, water and sanitation and protection which continue to reach millions of children around the region, and the recently introduced programme to provide cash assistance and vouchers to families with children up to 15 years of age.
Inside Syria, work is underway to provide up to one million children with winter support, including the distribution of locally procured clothing kits, blankets and school heaters in addition to the distribution of cash vouchers – allowing families to buy their own winter needs.
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An additional 100,000 children will be reached through cross border initiatives from Turkey and Jordan. Vouchers and cash transfers make up the bulk of UNICEF’s winter response in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan.
UNICEF has launched its annual appeal for funds to support its programmes overall inside Syria and neighbouring countries, seeking US$ 1.1 billion for 2016.
Photo courtesy: UNICEF