As the largest winter storm in years threatens Lebanon, World Vision is stepping up its preparations throughout the region to keep Syrian refugees safe from below freezing temperatures and snow.
More than 2.2 million people have fled to neighbouring countries to escape the violence. Many are living in tented settlements, camps or poorly-equipped apartments that offer little protection from the cold. Within Syria, many of the 6.5 million internally displaced are facing similar challenges.
Health workers in Syria are reporting an increase in respiratory diseases among children as temperatures dip. World Vision and other aid agencies are striving to reach as many people as possible with the resources they have, but with the sheer scope and scale of the crisis, the need remains immense.
As one Syrian father in Jordan explained, “We left Syria because our house was destroyed in the conflict and we were scared for our children. And now we’re scared of the cold. Perhaps it’s better to be killed by someone than to watch your children die of the cold.” Their home has no heating and no hot water.
“For months we have been concerned about the dire consequences of the approaching winter on these vulnerable families, and we’ve been working to protect as many people as we can. Now there’s little time more for preparations or warnings. For Syrian refugees, time has run out, and winter is here,” said Joe Harbison, World Vision’s response director for the Syria Crisis.
In Za’atari Camp in Jordan and in many of the makeshift settlements in Lebanon, flooding is already a significant problem, adding to the freezing temperatures.
Alongside other agencies, World Vision is responding with a raft of practical aid in the region to make sure families don’t have to fear the cold.
“Speaking with families, we know the fear that winter brings. I’ve seen far too many children with little more than sandals and short sleeves, even as winter approaches,” said Conny Lenneberg, World Vision’s head of programmes for the Middle East.
“We are working hard to ensure that we reach as many of the most vulnerable as we possibly can, so they get the protection they need, no matter the weather,” she said.
* World Vision UK: www.worldvision.org.uk