After a historic blizzard left its mark on the East Coast of the U.S., another massive snowstorm is moving into the Middle East impacting millions of Syrian refugees and internally displaced Syrians.
With temperatures falling below freezing, dark storm clouds have settled over Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, carrying heavy winds with driving rain and hail. Snow fell in mountainous areas of Lebanon, and is expected to cover Amman and other cities in northern Jordan in the coming days.
“We are 12 people living in one house and we only have one kerosene heater for all of us,” said Amneh Awad, 68, a widowed Syrian refugee living in Irbid, Jordan. “Our house is humid. In winter we cover the windows with blankets to keep it warm. When it is raining and the blankets are wet we have to squeeze the blankets and hang them, again.”
Awad, who suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, received winterization assistance from CARE which he used to buy some kerosene gallons and groceries.
While people across the region have been preparing for the storms, many refugees CARE staff spoke with did not have the financial means to stockpile goods for the winter.
“It is not a deliberate lack of preparedness,” said Richard Hamilton, CARE’s Regional Syria Response director. “Families simply don’t have the necessary means to purchase fuel, or repair their shelters or severely substandard housing. They need more assistance, but this crisis response remains underfunded.” In 2015, only 56% of the UN’s appeal for the Syria crisis was funded.
“For Syrians, both refugees and the displaced inside Syria, who are already living in very precarious circumstances, this is another big challenge,” said Hamilton. “Millions have fled war torn Syria and more are displaced in-country, with few if any belongings, and are now forced to face freezing snowstorms, amplifying already insufferable circumstances.” Last year there were reports of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, mostly children, freezing to death.
Around 4.6 million Syrians have sought refuge in neighboring countries, with the largest numbers in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. More than half the Syrian population has been displaced by the conflict. The Syria crisis has been described as the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II.
“When it starts raining, our entire house is flooded,” says Mona, a Syrian refugee mother living near Tripoli, Lebanon. “Water starts dripping from the roof and leaking through the floor. It’s cold all the time. I feel scared for my children.”
Many Syrians are facing their fifth winter in tents, unfinished buildings, and sheds. This winter, CARE’s teams across the region have been helping over 35,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey with winterization cash assistance, mattresses, blankets, gas heaters, and clothing. Inside Syria, CARE has reached approximately 50,000 people this winter in different areas with winterization assistance. Nevertheless, funding is desperately needed to provide urgent support.
As global leaders prepare to meet in London next month, CARE calls on the international community to increase funding commitments to meet the needs of internally displaced Syrians, refugees and host communities as they face yet another harsh winter.