Race against cold winter weather
Providing children and families in Syria life-saving winter assistance
Children and their families struggle to cope amid the ongoing conflict, continued displacements, the impact of unprecedented economic crisis, disease outbreaks and most recently deadly earthquakes. The hike in price of commodities triggered by the global energy crisis and the impact of sanctions are further compounding the dire situation.
The harsh winter with freezing temperatures and heavy rains will make things worse. Shortages of fuel and lack of means for heating will make it incredibly difficult for many people to make ends meet.
For families with children, living in urban slums where housing infrastructure has been destroyed and where there is high level of displacement and poverty, fighting off the cold let alone providing for their children’s basic needs becomes an unattainable task.
Significant numbers of families in Syria similarly continue to reside in makeshift tents in overcrowded displacement sites, especially in northern Syria. Due to climate change, winters are getting harsher making it extremely challenging for water truckers to navigate the streets of the camps for the internally displaced during heavy snow falls in northwest Syria. This is further worsening the prevailing vulnerabilities.
“Living amid rubble is tough, but it’s worse during the winter. My husband and I spent most of our time trying to stop rainwater from leaking in. There were days when we had nothing to eat but bread.”
The suffering of the children across Syria will only get worse, and the impact of the winter will be felt long after the cold temperatures recede if action is not taken immediately.
UNICEF’s winter response under way, more funding needed
UNICEF launched its winter response in August 2022. UNICEF Syria plans to provide emergency winter cash assistance to support over 250,000 people to meet their basic needs in seven governorates across the country during the 2023-2024 winter season.
The results show the high level of vulnerabilities among the beneficiary families, and the extent to which those families used the cash received to meet their necessities, i.e., food, energy for heating and health expenses. Moreover, the families spent the cash very fast, implying the huge needs of these families to cash. This means that these families would have much suffered if they had not received the cash assistance.
“The financial burdens are very heavy, especially as prices of essential items, such as food and fuel, increased. We would have never been able to face the coming winter without this cash assistance.”
The response focuses on four groups of highly vulnerable families: (1) families caring for children with disabilities; (ii) families caring for orphan children; (iii) families caring for people/children with chronic illnesses; (iv) and female-headed families.
Between November 2023 and March 2024, registered families will receive three rounds of regular cash assistance to help them meet their basic needs, particularly in terms of warm clothes for children, fuel for heating, food, and health. In addition to this, all families will be accompanied throughout the winter by a dedicated social worker who will help families and children with special needs access services they require.
To reach more than 250,000 highly vulnerable people and children (47,000 families) in urban slums across Syria during the upcoming winter; to provide three rounds of cash assistance to 17,000 families caring for children with severe mental/physical disabilities; to provide three rounds of cash assistance to 30,000 highly vulnerable families in urban and peri-urban slums; UNICEF requires US$ 13 million for these winterization activities.
Beyond the cash assistance, in northwest Syria, UNICEF will continue connecting camps for the internally displaced to nearby sewage and water networks. Desludging septic tanks, maintenance, and construction of latrines as well as distribution of water tanks will help to enhance access to good sanitation during winter.