Another Harsh Winter Bears Down on Syria’s Children

Nearly 5.5 million vulnerable Syrian children will soon face another season of harsh winter weather. This past January brought the coldest temperatures in more than a decade and UNICEF is very concerned that exposure to similarly cold and wet conditions will place further strain on the health and wellbeing of displaced Syrian children.

Displaced Syrian children particularly vulnerable to cold weather, inadequate water and sanitation 

NEW YORK (December 3, 2013) – Nearly 5.5 million vulnerable Syrian children will soon face another season of harsh winter weather. This past January brought the coldest temperatures in more than a decade and UNICEF is very concerned that exposure to similarly cold and wet conditions will place further strain on the health and wellbeing of displaced Syrian children.

The scale of the humanitarian response needed for the looming winter is unprecedented. In December of last year, there were approximately 1.15 million children affected by the crisis inside Syria, with an additional 232,000 Syrian children living as refugees in neighboring countries. Today, as the conflict approaches its three year mark, those numbers have skyrocketed to 4.3 million and 1.2 million, respectively.  

“Millions of displaced Syrian children have had to find safety under what are, frankly, inadequate living conditions,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “When freezing temperatures and rain are added to the mix, children under five are especially susceptible to opportunistic illnesses like acute respiratory infections which spread easily in overcrowded settings.”

There are currently more than 436,000 Syrian refugee children under the age of five in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and North Africa living in refugee camps, tented settlements and host communities. “Together with our partners, we have already mobilized emergency supplies in Syria and the region to keep children warm, dry and healthy this winter,” said Calivis.

The situation facing the more than 400,000 Syrian child refugees in Lebanon is especially precarious as thousands of families are currently taking shelter in tented settlements on flood-prone land. Should tents and latrines be flooded with rain, there is an increased risk of exposure to water-borne diseases.

UNICEF in Lebanon is distributing 88,000 winter clothing kits to children living in tented settlements across the country. Each kit includes a jacket, scarf, wool hat, waterproof boots, gloves and warm underclothes. UNICEF is also working to reinforce drainage systems and construct concrete foundations for families living in tents. Additional supplies, such as energy boilers for hot showers, are also being placed in camps. 

  • In Syria itself, UNICEF plans to reach 2,000,000 children with a package of emergency supplies for the winter. The package will include winter clothing for children, blankets, plastic sheeting and hygiene kits.
  • In Jordan, UNICEF will provide 35,000 winter clothing kits for Syrian refugee children under five, in addition to 24,000 blankets.
  • In Iraq and Turkey, to keep children in school, UNICEF is procuring 370 winterized tents for classrooms and child friendly spaces in Syrian refugee camps, along with fuel for heating.

UNICEF urgently requires additional funds to provide vital winter-related emergency supplies to children and families in Syria and neighboring countries. With a funding gap in excess of US $13 million for the emergency response, a significant proportion is needed to protect children throughout the harsh winter months ahead. 

How to help: For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to UNICEF’s relief efforts, please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:
Website: www.unicefusa.org/syria
Toll free: 1-800-FOR-KIDS
Text: SYRIA to 864233 to donate $10.
Mail: 125 Maiden Lane, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10038

###

About UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. 

For additional information, please contact:

Andrea Sioris, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9136, asioris@unicefusa.org