Aleppo, Syria, 30 January 2019- With dropping temperatures, children and their families across Syria are left with nothing to fend off the cold. Families living in collective shelters for the internally displaced or those returning to their destroyed homes amid a severe lack of services are especially vulnerable. Years of violence, displacement, lost livelihoods and depletion of financial resources have left them unable to provide for their children’s most basic needs, including winter clothes.
UNICEF’s e-vouchers provide children with warm winter clothes
“Last month, Ahmed’s old trainers finally gave up and were torn apart, forcing him to walk barefoot!”
To help ease the financial burden on families, UNICEF launched the innovative e-voucher programme, providing families with smart electronic cards charged with varying amounts of money based on the number of children and their ages. The vouchers are redeemable at pre-selected shops. The cards allow families to purchase full sets of winter clothes for their children, including a jacket, a woollen sweater, a thermal outfit, a pair of trousers, a woollen hat, scarf, gloves, socks and a pair of winter boots. The programme not only gives parents flexibility in choosing products but also maintains their dignity and empowers the local economy by creating demand.
In Aleppo, with thanks to the Department of International Development (DFID), the programme aims to reach 12,000 children under the age of 15 in eight war-ravaged neighbourhoods of the city with e-vouchers, redeemable at 24 shops.
Hameed, the father of 8 children; Ghada, 12, Ahmed, 10, twins Rana and Ali, 8, twins Rasha and Zakaria, 6, Mohammad, 3, and Fatima, 1, was happy to accompany his children to buy winter clothes, using the UNICEF-provided e-vouchers in the city of Aleppo.
“Last month, Ahmed’s old trainers finally gave up and were torn apart, forcing him to walk barefoot!” says Hameed who works as a day labourer. “I bought him another pair from a second-hand shop and the other children started protesting because they also needed new shoes. I felt helpless,” he adds.
Like thousands of other families across Syria, Hameed’s family relied on buying used clothes, and only when badly needed.
“If it wasn’t for the e-vouchers, we would not be able to buy any winter clothes this year,” says Hameed while busy helping his children pick out new clothes. “This year, even used clothes are beyond our means,” he adds.
Hameed and his family are temporarily staying with relatives until they finish repairing their damaged house.
“I spend everything I make on fixing the house and getting food and medicine,” he says.