United Nations: As Temperatures Plummet, So Does the Welfare of the Syrian People [EN/AR]

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 24 Dec 2012

(Amman/New York, 24 December 2012): More than 650 days since the start of the crisis in Syria, people struggle to stay warm, with temperatures dropping in the lead up to January, traditionally the coldest month in the country. “As temperatures plummet, so does the welfare of the people,” said Radhouane Nouicer, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria.

With each passing day, human and economic losses mount. Winter has set in, and rains have also begun, adding to the misery many people are facing, especially those in unfinished or makeshift homes, with little or no ability to obtain heating fuel—or even a blanket—to keep warm. Many people are still in their summer clothes and shoes.

Humanitarian agencies working inside the country continue to provide aid, including food, medicine and medical supplies. However, only a fraction of the 2.5 million people who need assistance have received it due to the dangerous combination of limited access, lack of partners in sufficient numbers and fuel to operate, and a funding shortage.

While the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme has been able to reach 1.5 million people with food aid, funding shortfalls meant that rations had to be reduced. Other humanitarian agencies have helped hundreds of thousands of people with basic relief items, including blankets, mattresses, cooking sets, hygiene items, drugs and medical supplies. However, the aid is rapidly outpaced by ever growing needs.

“Cold weather coupled with inadequate food, and a lack of heating and other winter items, is a perfect formula for increased illness, especially respiratory infections,” Mr. Nouicer warned. “Ordinary Syrians are facing three dangers: insecurity, lack of essential basic commodities and the rigors of winter. And all three are killers.”

“Yet one in four hospitals is out of service, some are inaccessible and those that are still functioning are overwhelmed. Many medical staff have left, and the shortage of both medicines and equipment is life threatening. While the UN and its partners are providing medicines, equipment, mobile clinics and large-scale vaccinations, it cannot compensate for such extensive damage and destruction of the country’s medical infrastructure,” added Mr. Nouicer.

Virtually all Syrians have now been affected by the conflict, with civilians enduring desperate conditions and paying the heaviest price. After 21 months, the number of people in need in and around the country continues to inexorably increase. Well over 2.5 million people have fled their homes seeking safety both inside and outside the country. The number of those in need of assistance inside Syria has quadrupled from 1 million in March to 4 million in December 2012.

“I have never seen the kind of human solidarity that is visible in Syria,” said Mr. Nouicer. “People are opening their homes and sharing what little they have, even the poorest among them. They set an inspiring example of extraordinary generosity, and offer proof that humanity can be at its best when times can be at their worst.”

Earlier this month, the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP) and the Syria Regional Response Plan (SRRP) were launched in Geneva. The plans, which call for $1.5 billion, will provide humanitarian assistance within and beyond Syria’s borders during the first six months of 2013. Collectively they comprise the largest short-term humanitarian appeal ever.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.