Unseasonably cold temperatures and winter weather are sweeping across the Middle East, threatening millions of children affected by crisis in the region.
UNICEF says it is facing a $38 million funding gap as it races to provide life-saving assistance – including warm clothing, blankets and winter supplies – to children and families as the cold settles in.
Harsh winter weather with freezing temperatures, storms and heavy snowfall, are expected to cause further hardship for families affected by conflict in Syria and Iraq who are already struggling to survive with the bare minimum. Many have been displaced by violence and live in camps or makeshift shelters, with little protection against the piercing cold.
“The winter months are even more brutal for vulnerable children in the region,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. “They are weakened from months of undernutrition and lack of health care, putting them at high risk of hypothermia and serious respiratory infections from the cold. Without help, winter could be another harsh sentence for many of them.”
Families are exhausted from years of conflict, displacement and unemployment, draining their financial resources, and making purchases of warm clothing and heating fuel all but impossible.
This winter, UNICEF aims to reach more than 2.5 million children in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt with warm clothes, thermal blankets and cash assistance for families – many of whom have fled conflict without any of their belongings.
UNICEF’s winter response is ensuring that vulnerable children across the region and their families benefit from school heating, warm clothing, school uniforms and cash assistance.
Winter support is in addition to UNICEF’s ongoing programmes in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, protection and education which continue to reach millions of vulnerable children across the region.
Distributions of winter kits – including clothes, scarves, gloves, shoes and warm blankets – and cash assistance packages are already underway:
- In Syria, winter kits have been delivered to almost 50,000 children, including in shelters hosting children from east Aleppo.
- 95,000 children in Lebanon were reached with school heating.
- Over 50,000 children in Jordan received cash assistance for winter.
- In Iraq, 38,000 children and 400 pregnant or lactating mothers have received winter clothing.
But needs are outpacing support. UNICEF has received just over half of the $82 million in funding it urgently requires to help protect vulnerable children across the region from the bitter cold – including in besieged and hard to reach areas.
Without additional funds, UNICEF says it will be unable to provide additional winter clothes and lifesaving services, leaving over one million children in the cold.
Photo courtesy: UNICEF
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