Syria Crisis: Snowstorms slam the Middle East, striking already vulnerable Syrians

Syria Crisis: Snowstorms slam the Middle East, striking already vulnerable Syrians

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AMMAN, Jordan (January 24, 2016)  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 she 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. 

MEDIA CONTACT:  Holly Frew  +1.404.979.9389

CARE Syria Response

CARE's provision of life-saving services to Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, and to people affected by the crisis inside Syria has already reached almost 1.5 million people. In Jordan, CARE provides Emergency Cash Assistance for refugees so they can pay for basic living costs, including rent, medication and food. CARE assists with vital information on how refugees can access further health, legal and social support and provides psychosocial assistance to women, men and children, in addition to other services such as winterization cash assistance, cash for education, recreational and psychosocial safe spaces for children, women, and men, and referrals to other NGOs. In Lebanon, CARE repairs water and sanitation infrastructure, provides health education sessions, works with municipalities to improve water supply and sanitation infrastructure for refugees as well as for host communities. CARE Turkey is providing life-saving aid to refugees from Syria, in addition to providing water and sanitation assistance, food vouchers, hygiene and household items, and information provision on health and gender/sexual violence.

Syrian volunteers, who are refugees themselves, are an integral part of CARE's Syria Response. Alongside Jordanian and Lebanese volunteers, they assist in organizing and preparing distributions of relief items.

About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty and providing lifesaving assistance in emergencies. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to help lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. CARE has been working in Jordan since 1948. CARE Jordan has extensive experience working with refugees, providing livelihood training and opportunities, emergency cash assistance, information sharing and psychosocial support to Iraqi refugees since 2003. CARE has been working in Lebanon and Turkey since 2013, helping people affected by the crisis in Syria.

Snow hits Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. Credit:  CARE