Syrian children struggling with freezing winter

Fears are growing for Syrian children and families hit by freezing winter weather as huge funding shortages endanger relief operations in the region

Monday 3 December 2012

Our new report, Out in the Cold, documents the desperate steps that children in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan are taking to survive increasingly bitter weather in the region.

Snow and sub-zero temperatures are expected to hit many areas in the coming weeks.

The current aid shortfall is over £124 million – half the total estimated needs - for Syrian refugees, hindering relief efforts and putting families at risk.

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Among the heart-rending testimonies given to Save the Children staff are children huddling three to a blanket, sleeping in makeshift shelters made of billboards and falling sick as temperatures plunge in the region.

“The heartbreaking stories we’re hearing from Syrian refugees as winter approaches underline the fact that this crisis is rapidly deteriorating, said our chief executive, Justin Forsyth.

"Every day new refugees are arriving, but the funding required to give them the help they need is simply not there.

Surge in funding needed

“The international community needs to match its diplomatic and security concerns with funding to help children.

"Unless there is a surge in funding, thousands of children are going to spend a bitter winter without proper shelter from the cold, and many will become sick as a result,” he added.

Some 400,000 refugees are living in tents, barns, unfinished buildings and other temporary shelters ill-equipped to provide protection from the cold.

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Many fled during summer months with only the clothes on their backs, and often children lack warm jackets and clothes to withstand the winter.

In Iraq, the only footwear most refugee children have is the flip-flops they fled in while in Jordan, parents are going into debt to provide basic clothing for their children.

In Lebanon, where there are no camps, high rents are preventing families finding or keeping adequate shelter. One group of refugees in the Beka’a Valley is facing freezing temperatures in shelters constructed from tarpaulins.

Fear of disease

There are now fears that infections and diseases could spread amongst refugee children, who are particularly vulnerable to the cold weather, and are living in close proximity in refugee settlements.

“We have one blanket. We don't have anything else. We don’t even have clothes. We received one blanket and we’re three.

"When we cover ourselves with the blanket, it's not enough for us. We’re getting sick – I’m getting sick,” said Ali, 11, living in an abandoned school.

Refugee numbers higher than expected

Meanwhile, the international aid response remains only around half funded for those who have fled the country, prompting fears that the aid effort will fail to deliver help to many of those who urgently need it.

Numbers of refugees pouring out of Syria have already far outstripped official expectations published earlier in the year.

Save the Children is on the ground in Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, helping thousands of children who have fled to neighbouring countries recover from their experiences and prepare for the coming winter.

But we need your support to reach more children.

Please donate to our Syria Appeal now