Simine Alam, Regional Information and Communication Manager
October 8, 2013
“My brothers are getting cold, too. My two youngest brothers can’t
say many words yet, but now when they get cold, they say that word:“cold”. They know that word. They know cold.” - Rami*, 11 years old, a Syrian refugee living in Za’atari Refugee Camp, Jordan
I roll up the window to prevent the cold air from coming into the car, as I drive back from Za’atari Refugee Camp in Northern Jordan to Amman with my colleagues from Save the Children, who work in the camp every day to provide essential services for children and their families. As the nutrition counselors exchange stories about their day with the school counselors, I reflect on the fact that it’s getting colder every day in Jordan, and this winter has been predicted to be the most harsh winter in the region, since 100 years ago. This means that the weather conditions are going to feel even more harsh for the millions of displaced Syrians in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey and Syria. This winter, more than 4 million Syrian children who have been forced to leave their homes due to the dangers caused by war, are going to be freezing cold.
When I tell people I live in the Middle East, often the first reaction is ‘it must be so hot there!’ A lot of people associate the desert with intense dry heat and so it is hard to comprehend that Za’atari, a sprawling tented city in the desert, home to approximately 120,000 Syrian refugees, is going to face freezing weather conditions and torrential rainfall this winter. Last winter Za’atari flooded, and we saw images in the media of Syrian refugees bailing water and mud out of tents with plates, bowls and brooms. Around 500 tents were destroyed due to being flooded or blown away with the wind.
This year the camp has doubled in size. The first thing that strikes you as you enter Za’atari is the number of children. Children make up more than half of the camp’s population. In spite of the great efforts various organizations, including Save the Children, have gone to, to ensure that the children in Za’atari are enrolled in one of the three schools in the camp or participating in the activities provided by youth centres, you still see children running around barefoot, pushing wheelbarrows, playing in the rocky outcrops and sand in the camp. I wonder if the barefoot children I saw running around today, will have shoes this winter to keep their little feet warm. Or if the tents I see, already flapping around in the wind now will be strong enough to protect families from the heavy rain and wind which are on their way.
I can’t bear the thought of going to sleep cold, and waking up cold and being cold day after day after day. But then I don’t live in a tent or an unfinished building, exposed to bitter wind, rainfall and even snow, and so I know I have to keep things in perspective this winter. Save the Children is going to great efforts for ‘winterisation’ this season – that is, ensuring that Syrian refugees and displaced people in the region are well equipped to deal with the freezing weather conditions in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. Based on our experience in distributing items last winter, we have carefully designed a set of winter items for families, including both children and adults’ clothing, blankets and rugs. We are also distributing household kits which include materials for families to improve their shelters. In Syria we are targeting newly displaced families with our distribution of materials, as these are the most vulnerable families. It is essential to get these items out as soon as possible. As every day passes, it’s getting colder and colder.
These are some examples of how a small amount can go a very long way:
- USD 11 could buy a pair of shoes to protect someone from the bitter winter
- USD 13 provides a warm blanket for a child
- USD 14 could buy an insulated jacket to protect someone from the bitter winter
- USD 52 will cover the cost of a school bag and a set of winter clothes to protect a child from the cold, including track suits, a winter jacket, gloves, a scarf, a winter hat, a pair of shoes and a set of underwear.
- USD 100 could buy a set of winter clothes, including jackets, winter hats, socks and footwear for a refugee family of 5
- USD 160 will provide a ‘quick-fix kit to a family of 4 in Lebanon, enabling them to weatherproof their self-built shelters. This includes plastic sheeting, transparent sheets, wood and galvanized nails.
- USD 250 could buy a winter kit for a family of five, including warm winter coats, scarves, hats and warm boots for adults, insulation for tents and house floors, plastic sheeting to protect shelter from the Winter elements and rope.
- USD 300 will cover the cost of running a household of 4 people throughout the winter period, including heating, fuel, winter clothes and winter boots for the family.
Read Save the Children's report Hunger in a War Zone
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* Name has been changed to protect the identity of the child