Amman, 19 January, 2021 – A six-year-old boy has died and more than 20,000 children have been displaced by heavy flooding in North West Syria, Save the Children said today.
At least 41,200 people have been affected by a heavy storm which has caused extreme flooding on Monday in northern Idlib and western Aleppo. Most of the people affected have already faced years of being uprooted from their homes due to conflict.
At least 62 camps and 2,558 tents have been damaged or destroyed by the storm, often sweeping away the only possessions people had after nearly a decade of displacement.
Tens of thousands of people scattered to find shelter from the ongoing storm in schools and mosques. Others were forced to sleep in the open air last night, in temperatures below zero.
The storm has also caused damage to two schools, adding to fears for education in an area where Save the Children’s partners have reported losing access to nearly 50% of students since the Covid-19 outbreak in March last year. The two temporary learning spaces, which temporarily closed, were run by Save the Children’s partners ATAA and Syria Relief in camps in Idlib.
Mazen*, 10 years old, living in a camp in northern Idlib said:
“Here in the camp, our tents are flooded. There is mud, and the ground has turned into a swamp. We can’t move or leave our tents. We want to go out to get bread, but we can’t. We can’t get anything. We don’t have heating. It’s cold, and the rainfall is very heavy. We warm up over bonfires using wood provided for us. It is not enough.”
With more than 1.5 million displaced people across North West Syria, extreme weather this winter has wreaked havoc on families already reeling from ten years of conflict, displacement and Covid-19 spreading uncontrolled across the region.
Ayman*, 30 years old, said:
“I was displaced from southern rural Idlib around a year and four months ago. We struggle with the same issue every year, heavy rainfall that causes flooding, a deluge of mud and swampy ground. A tent here was completely flooded, so we surrounded it with grit [to stop the water going in] and fixed it. We are desperate for any source of heating, fuel, wood, anything. In these harsh circumstances, most people can’t afford heating.”
Hundreds of additional camps across the area have also become hard to access, cutting off thousands of families from life-saving humanitarian aid.
Save the Children’s Syria Response Director, Sonia Khush, said, “I am saddened by the news of the death of a child following the severe floods in the North West. This is another loss of life in almost ten years of suffering for the people of Syria. Thousands of families will not be able to recover from this storm for a long time. Many have lost everything they worked hard to collect. And children don’t know where they are going to spend the night.
“We call for the urgent scaling up of relief efforts for children and families in affected areas. Cross-border humanitarian access needs to be facilitated urgently, and all parties to the conflict have to reach a solution that spares thousands further from suffering.”
Save the Children and partners are trying to provide essential humanitarian aid, but have not been able to reach three of the camps due to the roads turning into swamps. Camps where a third partner, Violet, is implementing vaccination services and where a family planning centre was set up have also been cut off.
With the rapid inflation of the Syrian Pound coupled with the coronavirus pandemic, the recent flooding will only exacerbate the needs on the ground, Save the Children said. People are in desperate need of heating, fuel, cash for rehabilitation of tents, cash for transportation, food baskets, tents, mattresses and blankets.
Save the Children’s partners have already started planning their response to provide weatherproofing kits and repair water drainage networks around the camp.