Snowstorms slam the Middle East, striking already vulnerable Syrians
By Dylan Quinnell
Syrian refugees and those displaced inside Syria are enduring yet another challenge, as a massive snowstorm hammers the Middle East.
Temperatures have fallen below freezing across Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, as high winds, driving rain, hail and snow make for dire living conditions.
“I live in a house with 12 people and we only have one kerosene heater for all of us,” said Amneh Awad, 68, a widowed Syrian refugee living in Irbid, Jordan. “In winter we cover the windows with blankets to try and keep it warm.”
Mrs Awad, who suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, received a cash grant from CARE International to help her prepare her family for winter. “I was able to buy some kerosene and groceries.”
While people across the region have been preparing for the storms, many refugees CARE staff spoke to did not have the financial means to stockpile goods for the winter.
“It is not a deliberate lack of preparedness,” said Richard Hamilton, CARE’s Regional Syria Response Director. “Families simply don’t have the necessary means to purchase fuel, or repair their shelters or severely substandard housing. They need more assistance but this crisis response remains chronically underfunded.”
In 2015, only 56 per cent of the UN’s appeal for the Syria crisis was funded, with CARE’s appeal similarly underfunded.
“Millions of people have fled war torn Syria and many more are displaced inside the country. With few if any belongings, they are now forced to face freezing snowstorms, amplifying already insufferable circumstances. Last year there were reports of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, mostly children, freezing to death,” Mr Hamilton said.
Many Syrians are struggling through their fifth winter in tents, unfinished buildings, and sheds. CARE’s teams across the region have been helping over 35,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey prepare with cash grants, and the provision of mattresses, blankets, gas heaters, and clothing. Inside Syria, CARE has reached approximately 50,000 people across the country this winter. Nevertheless, funding is desperately needed to provide essential support.
Around 4.6 million Syrians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, with the largest numbers in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Inside the country, more than half the Syrian population has been displaced by the conflict.
World leaders are preparing to meet in London on 4 February for a funding conference, where Australia is expected to make a pledge. CARE is calling on the international community to increase funding commitments to meet the needs of internally displaced Syrians, refugees and host communities as they face yet another harsh winter.