Tuesday, 15 October 2019

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Refugee camps struggle as winter has entered

 Photo: UNICEF/Jordan-2012/Khaled Al Masri

With cold winds and snow falling and settling on the ground, it is a time of joy for most of us, as we sit inside, drinking hot beverages and look out our windows on the peaceful landscape, digesting christmas.

But if you were living in a tent, you probably would not feel that cheerful at the sight of snowflakes.

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war refugees have spilled over the boarders to neighboring countries and into the refugees camps set in them. It is estimated that 2.3 millions Syrian refugees now live in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan. Reaching the internally displaced Syrians, an estimated 6.5 million people, consist another enormous challenge, as there are areas within Syria that humanitarian aid workers still cannot access.

As if being a refugee,living in a refugee camp wasn't bad enough, winter has now entered the region.

“This winter is forecast to be one of the harshest in 100 years, meteorologists are saying, and so UNHCR had started its winter programme earlier this year,” Amin Awad, the Syria Refugee Response Coordinator for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a press briefing in Geneva.

He said that ‘winterization kits’ have been distributed in Syria and surrounding countries, which the UN estimates to be struggling to meet the needs of some two million Syrian refugees. Insulation for tents, plastic sheeting and materials for water-proofing are among the items being distributed, and cash-for-fuel schemes have been implemented.

The worst affected of the winter are women and children. Therefore UNICEF is now handing out essential supplies for children in the refugee camps. “Preparing the camps for winter is our highest immediate priority,” says UNICEF Communication Specialist Jeffrey Bates- Most of the refugees arrived with only the summer clothes they stood up in, Mr. Bates points out. “It gets very cold and wet in northern Iraq in the winter, and women and children are the most vulnerable to all the suffering that that implies,” he says.

In December UNICEF will distribute 50,000 blankets, 8,000 hypothermia kits to benefit 40,000 children, and warm winter clothes for 27,000 babies and children.

UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said that since the start of 2013, UNHCR has brought relief supplies to more than three million people in Syria, including internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable individuals. Although the Syrian crisis had passed the 1,000-day mark, the amount of aid UNHCR was able to deliver “is still nowhere near enough.”