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After escaping the violence, refugees must now confront the cold

Source: Terre des hommes (Tdh) - Switzerland - Fri, 20 Dec 2013 01:24 PM
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© Tdh | Blaise Kormann
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

After 33 months of conflict and almost no sign of a resolution, the Syrian refugees are exhausted. However, they still have the winter to face which can be extremely harsh. The first snowstorms have already struck Jordan and Lebanon. Living conditions in the camps and host communities are worsening dramatically with the arrival of winter. Terre des hommes (Tdh) is helping Syrian refugees who need international aid more than ever.

The beginning of the month marked the sad anniversary of more than 1,000 days of war. Although dramatic, the Syrian conflict has become ‘trivialised’ and banal to much of the western world. After some very tense months on the international political scene, Syrians have since been left to their own fate while heavy fighting continues to force them to flee their country. There are more than 2,230,000 Syrian refugees of which more than half are children. According to the UN, their number could double by the end of 2014.

A cold end to the year

In Lebanon, the first snowstorms and extreme weather conditions have already affected the displaced population. In" Jordan":, the snow, bitter cold and heavy rains have temporarily paralysed humanitarian activities. Although many organisations have tried to prepare for them, the effects of winter are very harsh. Very low temperatures, sometimes falling below zero, are exacerbating the living conditions of Syrian refugees in camps and in host communities.

Inside Syria itself, the European Commission estimates that 9.3 million people are affected by the conflict and are dependent on humanitarian aid. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, described the Syrian crisis as “the worst humanitarian disaster since the end of the cold war.” Their needs have increased and the problems of health and nutrition are becoming ever more pressing.

Distribution of winter kits

The refugees are primarily in need of material assistance in order to cope with the winter weather. They need blankets, heaters, stoves, mattresses and clothes as well as basic and vital resources such as food and water.

Around Tyre and Saida in Lebanon, Terre des homes (Tdh) is distributing winter kits (also known as ‘winterization kits’ in humanitarian jargon) to the most vulnerable families with children under 14 years of age – who are living in shelters outside or sometimes even shelters without doors, electricity and water. More precisely, 1,650 children are currently benefiting from these winter kits financed by UNICEF, which include warm clothing. Tdh and its partners are also planning new distributions to meet the needs of the increasing number of refugees who arrive in the region on a daily basis.

Warming children’s hearts

More than half of the affected and displaced population are children. They have seen things that nobody should ever see in life, let alone at such a young age. Having witnessed violence in their place of origin and uprooted, the children are affected by the events that have befallen them.

In the Emirati Jordan Camp for refugees (EJC), Tdh provides children with psychosocial support in the “Child Friendly Spaces”. The Tdh workers organise activities for those between 6 and 18 years old so that they can begin to express their fears and feelings. Tdh also sets up activities for children under five and their mothers. Games, drawings and masks enable them to articulate what sadness has rendered silent. Around 350 refugee children are taking part in recreational activities with Tdh on a daily basis.

Every donation counts

On Monday, the UN launched a massive humanitarian appeal in aid of these Syrian victims: the international community is being asked for USD 6.5 billion for 2014. However, UN appeals are rarely covered and on 15th December, the appeal for Syria only reached 67% of the amount required.

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