4 December 2012 - Fears grow for Syrian children and families struggling to survive bitter winter warns Save the Children

Fears are growing for Syrian children and families hit by freezing winter weather as huge funding shortages endanger relief operations in the region, Save the Children has warned.  

A new report published by the aid agency, Out in the Cold, documents the desperate steps that children in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan are taking to survive increasingly bitter weather in the region, with snow and sub-zero temperatures expected to hit many areas in the coming weeks. The current aid shortfall is over $200 million – half the total estimated needs – for Syrian refugees, hindering relief efforts and putting families at risk.

Some 400,000 refugees are living in tents, barns, unfinished buildings and other temporary shelters ill-equipped to provide protection from the cold. Many fled during summer months with only the clothes on their backs , and often children lack warm jackets and clothes to withstand the winter.  In Iraq, the only footwear most refugee children have is the flip-flops they fled in .       

In Jordan, parents are going into debt to provide basic clothing for their children, and in Lebanon, where there are no camps, high rents are preventing families finding or keeping adequate shelter. One group of refugees in the Beka’a Valley is facing freezing temperatures in shelters constructed from tarpaulins.

There are now fears that infections and diseases could spread amongst refugee children, who are particularly vulnerable to the cold weather, and are living in close proximity in refugee settlements. 

Ali, 11, living in an abandoned school has this to say: “We have one blanket. We don't have anything else. We don’t even have clothes. We received one blanket and we’re three. When we cover ourselves with the blanket, it's not enough for us. We’re getting sick – I’m getting sick.”  

Meanwhile, the international aid response remains only around half funded for those who have fled the country, prompting fears that the aid effort will fail to deliver help to many of those who urgently need it. Numbers of refugees pouring out of Syria have already far outstripped official expectations published earlier in the year.

Save the Children is on the ground in Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, helping thousands of children who have fled to neighbouring countries recover from their experiences and prepare for the coming winter. The agency has launched an appeal for $35.9 million to help fund its work in the region.