Winter snows arrive early in Sulaymaniyah, KR-I; displaced families receiving UNCHR help

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 06 Dec 2015

The first heavy winter snows began in Sulaymaniyah, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) today, as staff from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, monitored camps where some of the most vulnerable families have received winter help.

The snowfall in low-lying urban areas has forced the closure of the local airport, pushing down temperatures to around two degrees centigrade. Night-time temperatures are expected to fall to below freezing.

UNHCR staff visited Arbat IDP camp, which houses more than 1,500 families displaced due to conflict in Iraq, to check that access roads to the camp are cleared, and that basic services like garbage and water trucks are able to reach families living there.

UNHCR completed the first distribution of winterisation help in the camp and others in Sulaymaniyah last month. In Arbat IDP camp, each family was provided with 200 litres of kerosene and winterisation relief items such as blankets, stoves, kerosene jerry cans, plastic sheeting and tent insulation kits.

"Our winter help is vital for displaced families at this time of year - especially those still living in tents", said Anne Dolan, UNHCR head of field office for Sulaymaniyah. "But even with our help, living in a tent in these conditions will never be adequate."

But on the first day of snow, rather than stay inside their cold tents, children in the IDP camp were outside, playing in the snow and having snowball fights.

One child, Mohammed, said it was his first snow and he was enjoying building a snowman with his father in the camp.

UNHCR staff are hoping to move many families currently living in tents in Arbat IDP camp to the newly-built Ashti camp, where families will have their own kitchen units and latrines.

The first snowfall has also been recorded in Dawida IDP camp, in Dahuk governorate, where families have been receiving winterisation help. More snowfall is forecast this week.

UNHCR began its winter assistance programme in late October and aims to reach 29 000 displaced Iraqi families and 25,000 refugee families with help to survive the freezing temperatures this winter throughout the KR-I region.

Contact: Caroline Gluck, Senior public information officer, UNHCR +964 780 920 7286. gluck@unhcr.org