SOS Children’s Villages Lebanon is providing clothing to children at Syrian refugee camps in the country’s Bekaa Valley.
Refugee crisis – 24 January 2019

Children facing ‘life and death’ struggle in winter freeze

Freezing temperatures and brutal storms have left thousands of refugee children in imminent danger from hypothermia, severe illness and death this winter. SOS Children’s Villages is providing children and families with winter coats, boots, warm bedding, and the support they need to survive the extreme conditions.

Inadequate shelter and a lack of warm clothing in refugee camps around the world has led to a sudden spike in child fatalities. At the Rukban refugee camp in Syria alone at least eight children have died in what the UN describes as “increasingly desperate” conditions that have become “a matter of life and death” for children and families.

This pattern is being repeated across Syria, where intense storms are jeopardising the safety and health of many of the country’s 2.5 million displaced children. At least 11,000 children and adults in the embattled city of Idlib are facing the seasons’ freezing temperatures without shelter, after torrential rains swept away their makeshift homes and belongings.

In neighbouring Lebanon, where 500,000 Syrian children have sought sanctuary from bombings, chemical weapons attacks and the capture of their cities by paramilitary and extremist groups, harsh weather conditions are exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis.

Salman Dirani, Director of SOS Children’s Villages Ksarnaba said: “The storms and cold weather we are seeing are much worse than is normal for Lebanon. We are helping as many families as we can with the supplies we have available from local donations.

“We are distributing boots, coats, socks and other warm clothing. These items are very scarce and are rarely distributed by other humanitarian or government organisations. We are also offering support to struggling families in the surrounding community, who we support through our Family Strengthening Programme.”

Refugee children on the Greek island of Lesvos have also been placed at risk by the sudden drop in temperature. Storm-induced power cuts and structural damage to living accommodation at the Kara Tepe refugee centre has left 800 children intermittently without heat or weather-proof shelter. SOS Children’s Villages’ child-welfare experts have reported outbreaks of flue, scabies and hypothermia amongst the children they support at the camp.

SOS Children’s Villages is at the forefront of providing vital care, support and emergency aid to refugee children worldwide. At their child-friendly spaces in refugee camps, and regions impacted by conflict and natural disasters, the charity works to ensure that the basic needs of children and families are met.

Their social workers, trauma counsellors and teachers also offer children in crisis access to informal education, healthcare and nutritional support, and a safe place to play with other children their own age. They also provide care for unaccompanied children until their families can be located, or a new home for them can be found.

The charity’s Family Strengthening Programmes also offer practical and emotional support to host communities in regions impacted by the arrival of refugee populations – working to improve the local economy, help children access education and improve relations between refugee and host communities.

You can find out more about our work protecting child refugees worldwide here.

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Notes to editors:
For media enquiries please contact Lucy Prioli at Lucy.Prioli@sosuk.org or on 01223 222 974