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What's the Best Valentine's Gift of 2021? One that Saves Lives
Winter is brutal for Syrian children displaced by conflict, living in settlements in Syria and refugee camps across the Middle East. This Valentine’s Day, give your loved ones the gift of knowing they've helped by sending blankets, warm clothing and emergency supplies in their name to kids who are struggling to make it to spring.
The situation is urgent.
Nearly a million Syrian refugees have fled to Turkey, where many are living in makeshift shelters or sleeping out in the open. Children are freezing to death. Back in the country they fled, the nearly decade-long war combined with torrential rain and snow have made life a nightmare for children caught in the crossfire. In Jordan, COVID-19 containment measures have pushed Syrian refugee families to the breaking point. A survey last fall found that the pandemic has forced twice as many households to live on only $140 a month, just as freezing temperatures stand to double their heating, clothing, food and medicine costs.
This winter, COVID-19 has left Syria’s children even more vulnerable. Your help is absolutely critical. Rush lifesaving supplies to children when you dedicate a UNICEF Inspired Gift to your loved one this Valentine’s Day. UNICEF will make sure those supplies get to children in need, and send a Valentine’s Day e-card to your loved one, letting them know how much they mean to you — and to children around the world.
"We sleep side-by-side while holding my newborn baby to keep ourselves warm," says Sanaa (above), with her 15-day-old infant at the Fafin camp in northern rural Aleppo, Syria where over 3,000 people live in tents largely exposed to the cold and rain. When violence escalated in 2018, she and her family fled their home with just the clothes on their backs.
"When it rains, I feel like I can't breathe due to the heavy pressure the rain creates on the tent. It starts seeping in and we run to save our few belongings from getting soaked," says Sanaa.They have a heater, but fuel is prohibitively expensive. "I sold my wedding ring to get some fuel to keep the baby warm," she says.
For many families in the Fafin camp, securing winter clothes or heaters to keep their children warm has become a distant dream. "The clothes we fled with have turned into rags; they can no longer keep us warm," says Farida, pictured above with her two children. “All I think of is how to keep them warm this winter. My children are outgrowing their clothes fast. We adults can manage, but what about them?”
We’ve hung blankets and sheets to cover our broken doors and shattered windows. Many services aren’t yet properly available. We rely on assistance for food and use water-filled jerry cans for drinking and cleaning. — Khitam, mother of two, Homs Governorate, Syria
“We live day-by-day and rely on wood for heating, but we can’t find it easily,” says Rabaa, 37, pictured above with her daughter Hadeel, 6, nephew Awad, 4, and niece Aisha, 18 months. After Rabaa’s family fled violence in their hometown of Mahin in 2014, they ended up in Rukban, a remote desert camp in southeastern Syria near the Jordanian border. Now they have returned to Mahin, where many families live in damaged homes without doors or windows — or access to a functional water system, proper health facilities and markets.
“We lived through five cold winters in Rukban, staying in tents and watching our children suffer from harsh weather,” Rabaa recalls. “I’m grateful for being back here. At least we’re home. But it doesn’t seem like we will have a much warmer winter this year.”
The Syrian refugee crisis remains the largest displacement crisis in the world, with 5.6 million registered refugees, including over 2.5 million children, living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. With no end of the war in sight, UNICEF will continue its work to protect and support Syria's children wherever they are. Shahed, 10, and her siblings, Ata and Wa’ad (above), live in a remote tent settlement outside Amman, Jordan. Temperatures there dropped to near freezing in January, but thanks to UNICEF's emergency response, warm clothing for children, plastic sheets, blankets, mattresses and more reached them just in time.
Emergency relief for refugee kids like Shahed and her siblings is critical in winter, but their needs don’t end when winter does. UNICEF works year-round to protect these children, providing lifesaving water and sanitation supplies, child protection services and learning support to help them survive and thrive in even the most dire circumstances.
Top photo © UNICEF/Abdulaziz Aldroubi: Khitam, 44, mother of Walid, 5, and Bilal, 18 months, returned home to Mahin , Syria— and a house damaged by war. But she feels fortunate. "I’m grateful to be back and for having a roof above my children’s heads. We’ve hung blankets and sheets to cover our broken doors and shattered windows. Many services aren’t yet properly available. We rely on assistance for food and use water-filled jerry cans for drinking and cleaning." Photos: © UNICEF/UN0401392/Almatar; © UNICEF/UN0401394/Almatar; © UNICEF/UN0401399/Aldroubi; © UNICEF/UN0406712