Fears are growing for Syrian children and families hit by freezing winter weather as huge funding shortages endanger relief operations in the region, Save the Children has warned.
Among the heart-rending testimonies given to Save the Children 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. Every day new refugees are arriving, but the funding required to give them the help they need is simply not there”, said Save the Children’s Chief Executive, Justin Forsyth.
Some 400,000 refugees are living in tents, barns, unfinished buildings and other temporary shelters ill-equipped to provide protection from the cold. 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 are the flip-flops they fled in.
In Jordan, parents are going into debt to provide basic clothing for their children, and 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.
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.” Ali, 11, living in an abandoned school.
• “When I feel cold I start shivering – even now I feel cold. My throat hurts, and I feel like I have the flu. We need medicines.” Ines, 8, living in a shelter made of billboards.
• “When it rains outside, you really feel the cold. It’s really bad for you. It’s easy to get sick when you’re freezing all the time.” Rami, 11, living in a tent in a refugee camp.
• “I have two daughters that are sick because of the cold. All my children are sick.” Nadia, 30, mother of five-month-old child, living in an unfinished building.
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.
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