Middle East

A brutal winter hits a Syrian refugee camp

Babiska, Syria: On December 17, 2021, children warmed up around a bonfire at a temporary camp for displaced people in Idlib, northwestern Syria. — AFP

KAFR AROUK, Syria: Umm Raghad’s children don’t have the right clothes or kamado in their homes during the harsh winters of Syria, so they burn scraps of garbage and keep them away from bites. “When I woke up every morning, I noticed that the children weren’t near me,” Umm Ragad told AFP from an evacuation camp in the northwestern part of Idlib. “They go out early to collect pieces of plastic from the street, such as bags and soles,” said the three mothers, her face half-covered with a thick black scarf.

Winter usually caused tragedy in northwestern Syria, home to more than 3 million people, nearly half of whom were banished by a decade-long war that killed nearly 500,000. At temporary camps in the country’s last major rebel outpost, streets become muddy, tents leak, and residents die of fires caused by hypothermia or unsafe heating methods. Umm Ragad, a widow in the war, moved to Kaful Arrowk camp three years ago to escape combat in other parts of Idlib.

The harsh winter is intolerable for her family, and it doesn’t have enough money even for the most basic necessities, she said. “I can’t afford to buy a kamado or feed my children,” said Umm Ragad. “My kids are cold. They don’t have the right clothes.”

Snowfall and sub-zero temperatures are not uncommon in northwestern Syria. Aid agencies often help insulate tents and provide blankets and clothing, but donor funding is struggling to keep up with growing demand. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, $ 182 million is needed to fund the growing winter aid needs across Syria this year, but only half of the amount has been secured.

At Kafr Arouk camp, rudimentary kamado installed in Umm Raed’s tarpaulin tent attracts dozens of people seeking heat retention. Last year, a group of people donated a heater to Umm Raid. Umm Raid’s eight children include three with special needs. The 45-year-old can’t afford coal or timber, so she disposes of scraps collected by Umm Ragad’s children and other neighbors who spend hours hunting the camp’s dirty grounds. “All our neighbors are gathering in my tent to stay warm,” she told AFP. “About 15 people are packed in one tent, where they eat, drink and sit.”

Last month, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which supports dozens of camps in northwestern Syria, warned that unsafe heating methods would increase people’s risk of respiratory illness and complications associated with smoke inhalation. .. “Respiratory illness is one of the top three illnesses consistently reported at our facility in the northwest,” he said.

Exiled from the northern city of Aleppo nine years ago, Umm Mohammad is one of those at risk of keeping his lungs warm. A mother who burns three twigs and paper in a tent at Idrib Camp and emits white smoke into a small firebox. “It smells strong and there is a lot of smoke,” she said. “Yesterday, my chest hurt and I wanted to see a doctor, but I couldn’t afford it.”

Nearby Abu Hussain saw a group of children surrounding an outdoor fire burned with a nylon bag and a piece of wood. “Lighting a fire in a crowded, smokey, and crowded area can lead to suffocation,” a 40-year-old 10-year-old father told AFP. Abu Hussain, who fled the Hama countryside four years ago, said he could hardly buy firewood, let alone medicine for respiratory illness.

“The cheapest prescription drug costs about 50-60 Turkish lira ($ 3.80- $ 4.60), but … I have no work or access to assistance,” he said. What’s more, he said, his tent was leaking, causing the rain to drip when the children were sleeping. “Sometimes we stay up all night … put a plastic bag on their heads to prevent it from raining.” — AFP

https://news.kuwaittimes.net/website/brutal-winter-hits-refugee-camps-in-syria/ A brutal winter hits a Syrian refugee camp

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