Homeless Syrians face dire winter, CAFOD warns
19 December 2013
Millions of Syrians who have been forced from their homes face a devastating combination of freezing weather, food shortages and the near-total collapse of healthcare services this winter.
Temperatures have plummeted and the first snows of winter have arrived. People living in tents, makeshift shelters and damaged or derelict buildings urgently need improved access to medical support – as well as blankets, warm clothes and heaters. Children and older people with existing health conditions are particularly at risk.
Medical services for refugees in Jordan and Lebanon are already stretched to breaking point. Our partner Caritas Jordan, which runs seven clinics across the country, has seen a 624 per cent rise in Syrian patients this year.
Meanwhile, a report by our partner Caritas Lebanon shows that a staggering 87 per cent of older Syrian refugees in Lebanon don’t have access to the medication they need. Many suffer from existing health conditions. For others, the stress of what they’ve been through is causing hypertension, and aggravating ongoing conditions like diabetes and heart disease. 66 per cent describe their health as bad or very bad.
Within Syria itself, the situation is even worse. Most hospitals have been destroyed or damaged in the fighting, and the current polio outbreak shows the dire consequences of the collapse of the health system. The onset of winter is likely to lead to a sharp rise in respiratory illnesses, unless aid is allowed to reach those most in need.
Alan Thomlinson, our Emergency Programme Manager for the Syria Crisis, said: “While people in Britain worry about how they will afford energy bills this winter, millions of Syrians are facing the prospect of a truly dire winter.
“It’s easy to think of countries like Syria, Lebanon and Jordan as being hot all year round, but in reality temperatures fall below freezing in many areas.
“We’ve met a lot of refugees who were forced to flee their homes with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. They don’t have warm clothes and some don’t even have shoes and socks. Even if they have a roof over their heads, they don’t have money to pay for heating.
“There needs to be humanitarian access to all parts of Syria, and continued support for local organisations in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. They are on the front line of the crisis, and they’re working against the odds to make life bearable for the refugees. Above all, there needs to be peace.”
We are working with Caritas Lebanon, Caritas Jordan, Caritas Turkey and Church partners within Syria itself to provide healthcare, food, shelter, clothes, blankets and heaters to those most in need, regardless of their religious or political ties. The community networks of the Church in Syria means that, even as a minority faith, is it well placed to deliver aid in some of the worst hit and most inaccessible parts of the country.
We are calling for:
- A ceasefire and a long-term peace agreement. The Geneva 2 Peace Conference must be given full political and diplomatic support to ensure that peace talks are inclusive and without pre-conditions.
- The immediate lifting of all restrictions, including bureaucratic restrictions, on full, safe, and unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas and people in need inside Syria by the most efficient routes, including from across national borders.
- Full funding for the UN humanitarian appeals, and continued support for local NGOs working both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries.