Aarsal, Lebanon: More than 200,000 Syrian child refugees are facing a bitter winter of freezing temperatures and rain without proper shelter or clothing, a charity has warned. As the nights draw in and the temperatures drop,
Save The Children has made an urgent appeal for funding to provide tens of thousands of families that have fled the war in Syria with adequate supplies to survive. “Unless we can help families get ready for the harsh weather ahead, we could see the weakest and most vulnerable succumb to the cold and associated diseases,” said Mike Penrose, Save the Children’s Humanitarian Director.
More than 400,000 registered refugees have fled their homes to live in crowded camps in countries bordering Syria. A further 2.5 million people are internally displaced.
More than half are children. Many are living in emergency accommodation that will not withstand the torrential rain and blizzards that affect the region. Inside Syria, close to the border with Turkey, thousands are living under blue tarpaulins in a muddy olive grove with no water or sanitation as they wait to escape the country.
Once across the border they are mainly housed in flimsy tents. In Lebanon refugees are sleeping on the cold concrete floors of abandoned schools and farm buildings. Um Ibrahim, 76, has been left to care for her grandchildren, who are now all taking refuge in a cold breezeblock shelter with a tin roof in Lebanon. “My daughter was in the courtyard washing clothes. She had just told the children to go inside when the bomb hit. After that I fled to Lebanon with her four children. I picked potatoes for $4 (Dh14) per day to support them. “I have also lost seven nephews in the war; two were rebel fighters, two were shot in popular protests, and three were killed by shelling. I have nobody left but God!”
Costs of heating fuel are far beyond the means of many of the families and with the rain, tents and mattresses are getting soaked. Many do not have the clothes they need to keep warm. “In the Al Qaem camp in Iraq, children have told us that they haven’t washed for more than two weeks because the water is ice cold,” said Penrose. Without money to pay for such work, winter could leave thousands of refugees facing serious health problems that could prove deadly, the charity warned. Separately, the Syrian regime criticised France for hosting an opposition ambassador, Ali Haidar, the national reconciliation minister, accusing them of “acting like a hostile nation.” France on Saturday invited the newly formed opposition bloc to send an envoy to Paris