Warning of harsh winter conditions looming for more than eight million Syrian children living inside the war-ravaged country or as refugees around the region and beyond, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced a package of assistance for 2.6 million Syrian children, including cash assistance, in addition to ongoing humanitarian programmes.
“These months are particularly brutal for children. They are at higher risk of developing respiratory infections in the cold weather, and – tragically – they are also in danger when families burn plastic or other toxic materials inside their shelters to keep warm,” said UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Peter Salama in a news release.
According to UNICEF, early weather reports indicate that this winter could be harsher than last year’s with temperatures in some mountainous areas dropping as low as minus 13°C during the coldest days of December and January, along with possible storms and heavy snowfall which could cause hardship for families who are struggling to survive even in normal conditions.
The Syrian crisis has displaced more than three million children inside the country, sometimes multiple times and in neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt more than 2.2 million children are now living as refugees, UNICEF said.
The UN agency said that many families’ financial resources are exhausted after five years of continued crises, making purchases of even essentials like warm coats and scarves impossible.
The package of assistance to be provided by UNICEF will support 2.6 million Syrian children living inside the country and across the region, with the focus mainly on children who have been hit the hardest, including the internally displaced and those living in hard-to-reach areas or in informal tented settlements.
According to UNICEF, work is underway in Syria to provide up to one million children with winter support, including the distribution of locally procured clothing kits, blankets and school heaters in addition to the distribution of cash vouchers – allowing families to buy their own winter needs.
The agency said that an additional 100,000 children will be reached through cross border initiatives from Turkey and Jordan. Vouchers and cash transfers make up the bulk of UNICEF’s winter response in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan.
UNICEF said that the support will be an addition to ongoing programmes in health, education, water and sanitation and protection which continue to reach millions of children around the region, and the recently introduced programme to provide cash assistance and vouchers to families with children up to 15 years of age.
UNICEF launched its annual appeal for funds yesterday, to support its programmes overall inside Syria and neighbouring countries, seeking US$ 1.1 billion for 2016.