In Syria, A Harsh Winter for Children Displaced by Conflict
Ten years since the start of the Syrian civil war, children are still caught in the crossfire, being killed, injured, displaced and deprived of basic daily necessities. In January alone, at least 15 children have been killed in incidents involving explosive weapons and unexploded ordnance. Another 15 children have been injured.
Conflict in Syria has forced more than 6 million people out of their homes in search of safety. Just since December 1, 2020, over 586,000 people have been displaced, 80 percent of them women and children. Children and families are taking refuge in public facilities, schools, mosques, unfinished buildings and shops. Many are living in the open air including in parks, amidst heavy rains and in the freezing cold.
Access to the most basic services, including health, water and sanitation, are either very limited or nonexistent. UNICEF is working with partners to provide children and families with the emergency assistance they need to survive this crisis.
Over the past few weeks, severe winter weather, including torrential rain and snow, has affected more than 22,000 people in western Aleppo and Idlib governates in Syria's northwest. Above, Abu Qutaiba carries his 11-year-old son, Kamel, through a flooded area in Kafr Losin Camp for displaced people on January 19, 2021. "We fled the fighting and the shelling [in rural Idlib] to find shelter for our children," Qutaiba said. "Now the rain has come and flooded our camp. We are in desperate need of help. We barely managed to get the children out of the tents. We don’t know where to go. It has been three days and the camp is still flooded.”
“We came here to run away from the fighting back in our village," Kamel added. "But now look at how the camp is flooded. We still go to school at six in the morning but spend all the time there shivering from the cold, then come back to our wet tents.”
The heavy rainfall has cut off roads leading to camps for internally displaced families, restricting access for emergency vehicles.
While the damage continues to be assessed, there are reports that more than 1,700 households in the area have been affected by the flooding, exposing children to worsening severe winter conditions.
Above, a child collects safe drinking water from a tanker truck. Families without access to safe water are vulnerable to waterborne diseases which can be fatal, especially among children.
Children in the camp need warm clothes and shoes, and a safe, dry place to sleep, away from the floodwaters.
Years of conflict, displacement and loss of livelihood has taken an immeasurable toll on children and their families in northwestern Syria. The recent economic downturn and the impact of the fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic have further compounded a desperate situation.
"Children and families in Syria have suffered so much over the past decade, with still no end in sight," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. "UNICEF and the wider humanitarian community continue to work tirelessly to provide support, but we cannot do it alone. We need funding. We need better access. And most importantly we need everyone to protect children and keep them out of harm’s way. The violence in Syria must end.”
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Top photo: On January 19, 2021, a child peers out of a tent in Kafr Losin Camp in northwestern Syrian Arab Republic. © All photos by Khaled Akacha for UNICEF