Middle East winter storms: Three children killed, hundreds of thousands at risk as temperatures plummet in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan

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CARE warned in a Tuesday report that the onslaught of severe winter storms is making life worse for internally displaced Syrians, as well as Syrians living in Lebanon and Jordan, where “temperatures are expected to drop to 40-year lows and -14 degrees Celsius (6.8 Fahrenheit) and lower.”

Winter storms have damaged 362 tents and affected 2,124 displaced Syrians living in camps in Syria, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Turkey.

A child died at a camp in Qastal Miqdad, Syria, when a tent she was in collapsed due to snow accumulating on the roof. The child’s mother is reportedly in intensive care, OCHA said.

A 3-year-old and a 5-year-old child died Monday morning in a camp north of Aleppo, Syria, when a heater-caused fire broke out in their tent. The mother of the two children was injured with severe burns and taken to hospital, according to White Helmets, a group of volunteer rescuers in Syria responding to the incident.

The cold weather caused a sharp drop in the body temperature of two children in camps in Bulbul, Syria. Both children are being treated at a hospital in Afrin, Syria, OCHA said.

“This is another blow to people whose lives are already unbearable. People can see their own breath as they lie on their flimsy mattresses; You’ll see kids walking around in flip flops and torn shirts. Families are afraid they will freeze to death,” said Jolien Veldwijk, CARE’s country director in Syria.

crisis in a crisis

Syria’s 2011 civil war began with the arrest of a handful of children during the Arab Spring protests in March 2011. It has since escalated into a humanitarian crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 350,000 people and millions – almost half the population – force. from their homes.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 6.7 million people have been internally displaced in Syria. Another 6.8 million live as refugees in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

Many of the displaced have found shelter in unfinished buildings, sheds, informal settlements and tents that do not provide adequate shelter, exposing them to harsh winter conditions, CARE said. This week’s bad weather only worsens living conditions.

Mark Cutts, the United Nations’ deputy regional humanitarian coordinator, said more support is needed for “these children and elderly who are struggling to survive in flimsy tents in sub-zero temperatures”.

In Lebanon, refugees live in a sprawl of informal settlements where they have no protection from the elements, CARE said.

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“People have no jobs or income, no access to jobs. They are already suffering the consequences of an unprecedented economic crisis in Lebanon and have no way of protecting themselves against the expected snowstorms,” says Bujar Hoxha, Country Director of CARE Lebanon.

Veldwijik said that “snowfall and sub-zero temperatures are not uncommon in the Middle East,” but climate change is playing a role, causing increasing flooding and rain.

“Flash floods simply wash away the tents and what few belongings people were able to take with them when their homes were bombed. Winters are getting harsher and deadlier, while families find it harder and harder to cope with freezing temperatures,” Veldwijik said.

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