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Syria: a harsh winter for refugees

Harsh winter in Syria

Refugees receive warm clothes and blankets as protection against the cold.

Winter has reached Manbij in the north of Syria. Below-zero temperatures, icy winds and snow are uncomfortable, even inside the house. But the cold becomes unbearable for many of the refugees from the war regions, who have only light summer clothing or thin shoes and are living in tents.

Together with its Syrian and Turkish partners, Welthungerhilfe assists people in the border region with food, warm blankets and mattresses against the cold.

Snow covers the refugee camps around Manbij.
Snow covers the refugee camps around Manbij.
It is getting colder and colder in the tents. Welthungerhilfe is distributing blankets and mattresses.
It is getting colder and colder in the tents. Welthungerhilfe is distributing blankets and mattresses.
Mattresses against the cold. People are travelling far to reach the distribution sites.
Mattresses against the cold. People are travelling far to reach the distribution sites.
Refugees are spending the winter in home-made temporary tents.
Refugees are spending the winter in home-made temporary tents.
Children are particularly hard hit by the cold weather.
Children are particularly hard hit by the cold weather.

Fleeing the war

Manbij is overcrowded. With 120,000 people, the city in northern Syria is home to twice as many people than before the beginning of the civil war. Dozens of refugee camps have been set up at the edge of the city. Many refugees are from the contested Aleppo region; here, near the Turkish border, they are looking for a safe haven with relatives or friends, or in the temporary refugee camps. But the tension in the air is palatable: there is a shortage of heating materials and few jobs, and the city is simply not big enough for so many people.

Packages with food items, blankets and winter clothing against the cold

Aid deliveries from Welthungerhilfe have already arrived for the second time. The first food packages were distributed in November. There was also dire need for the monthly rations last week. The start of winter with unexpectedly high snowfall has hit Syrians hard, as they had to leave everything behind when they left. There was only room for the most urgently needed items. To date, mattresses and food packages have been distributed to 3,320 families. A monthly ration consisting of rice, noodles, lentils and other food must typically feed a family of seven. Additional monthly aid rations are planned until the end of February.

Own reserves have been used up

Each week, new refugee families arrive in the region. This also poses a challenge for the logistics and coordination aspects of our aid work, reports Rüdiger Ehrler, Head of Project for Welthungerhilfe in Syria. People have used their last reserves while they were fleeing the fighting, therefore rapid and spontaneous emergency aid becomes all the more important - also for the refugees from middle-class families who had washing machines and cars. "Their lives have been turned upside down. Now they are dependent on assistance. We always try to keep a few packages for new refugees, who have nothing left," says Ehrler.

4,000 winter packages for those on the border

Welthungerhilfe is planning more distributions in the coming weeks: 4,000 winter packages with canvas covers, sleeping bags, blanekts and warm winter clothing will be distributed during the new few days alone. Similarly, support will also be offered to the refugees located a few kilometres away on the Turkish side. Kerosene, gas and charcoal for heating are also in short supply. Icy cold dominates in the refugee accommodations and on the naked tent floors even during the day. Perfect timing for the mattresses from the factory in Manbij.

The people in Syria need additional help. Please support our work with your donation!

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