Millions of children on the move at risk from harsh winter
The ongoing crisis in Syria has left millions of families internally displaced within their own country or living as refugees in neighbouring countries. Forced to flee their homes with little or no possessions, these children are increasingly vulnerable to the freezing temperatures and storms common to the region.
“Not only have families seen their homes destroyed and incomes and savings wiped out from years of conflict, but now they have to worry about staying warm through snowstorms, flooding and strong winds without the shelter, clothing or heating they need to survive,” said Meg French, UNICEF Canada Chief Program Officer. “Children shouldn’t be cold while they sleep, nor while they go to school. If anyone knows how crucial it is to stay warm in the winter, it’s Canadians."
Three-month-old Hala was born in the midst of the ongoing fighting in Aleppo. She arrived with her mother and older sister two weeks ago in a shelter in Jibreen, where many families displaced from east Aleppo city are staying in very basic conditions.
“Hala was born during the worst times for our family,” said Hala’s mother who was relieved to have fled the fighting in east Aleppo, but remained desperately worried about Hala’s safety. “When we fled our neighborhood I was so concerned about Hala especially after I heard that a baby died because of the cold in the shelter.”
UNICEF is working around the clock to purchase and deliver winter clothing and supplies to 2.5 million children both inside Syria and Iraq and those who have taken refuge in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. The priority is to reach the most vulnerable children, including the youngest, poorest and those living in besieged or hard-to-reach areas.
UNICEF is providing children with gloves, hats, shoes, socks, scarves, jackets and thermal blankets – all critical to protect a child from the cold. The plans for this winter season include providing 740,000 thermal blankets to children in Syria, winter clothing kits for 64,000 children in Jordan, and school heating and winter uniforms for 21,300 internally displaced children in Iraq.
UNICEF is also providing families with cash assistance and vouchers to address the most urgent needs of their children and providing heaters for schools.
To meet these immediate winter needs of children across the six affected countries, UNICEF is appealing for $82.4 million. To date, just $44.4 million has been received.
“The Government of Canada and Canadians themselves have already shown so much generosity in response to the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq and the refugee crisis, but we can’t stop now,” said French. “Let’s make sure that no child endures a winter without the protection and warmth needed to survive and thrive.”
To help UNICEF continue providing life-saving support to the children of Syria, click here.