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UN: $39 Million Needed for Syrians     01/25 06:18

   

   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Heavy snow and freezing rain have seriously affected 
about 250,000 displaced Syrians living in camps in the last major opposition 
stronghold in northwestern Syria, with tents collapsing and children having to 
walk in the snow in sandals, a senior U.N. humanitarian official said Monday.

   "It's a real disaster zone," said Mark Cutts, the U.N. deputy regional 
humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis who is in charge of cross-border 
aid operations from Turkey to the northwest.

   The recent snowstorm in the Middle East has left many Syrians as well as 
Lebanese, Jordanians and residents of eastern Turkey struggling to survive. And 
in Gaza, rain flooded streets in freezing temperatures, leaving residents 
struggling to stay warm.

   Cutts said during a virtual news conference that northwest Syria has been 
especially hard hit because it has one of the most vulnerable populations in 
the world -- 2.8 million displaced people living mainly in camps that "are bad 
at the best of times because it's a war zone." Despite a cease-fire, there has 
been shelling almost every day in the last year as well as a lot of airstrikes.

   "But now during this extremely cold weather, we've seen some real horror 
scenes in the last few days," he said. "About a thousand tents have either 
collapsed completely or been very badly damaged as a result of heavy snow in 
some areas and freezing temperatures," down to minus 7 degrees Celsius (about 
19 degrees Fahrenheit), as well as a lot of rain in some parts.

   "So about 100,000 people have been affected by the heavy snow and about 
150,000 people living in tents have been affected by the rain and then freezing 
temperatures," Cutts said. "That's a quarter of a million people who are really 
suffering now the worst effects of this cold spell that is going across the 
entire region."

   He said humanitarian workers have been pulling people out from under the 
collapsed tents. Many don't have shovels or other equipment to clear the snow 
from their tents so they have been using their bare hands and children have 
been photographed "walking in the snow and on the ice in their sandals," Cutts 
said.

   He said snow and cold are particularly bad for elderly and disabled people 
"living in these torn and ripped and flimsy tents in these sub-zero 
temperatures."

   This kind of winter weather is a regular occurrence in northwest Syria, 
Cutts said, and the United Nations handed out "winterization items," including 
clothing and blankets last June and July..

   But the U.N.'s $4 billion appeal for humanitarian aid for Syria in 2021 was 
only 45% funded, compared with 58% in 2020, he said. Of the $84 million 
required for winterization in the northwest, only $45 million has been received 
so far, leaving a gap of $39 million.

   Cutts said in the last few days humanitarian workers have been trying to 
clear roads, get mobile clinics to people in need, repair or replace tents, and 
provide other urgently needed relief items including food, blankets and winter 
clothing.

   But what is desperately needed is more money, he said, and "political will" 
to end the 11-year conflict.

   "We are really appealing to the international community, to do more to 
recognize the scale of the crisis and to help us to get these people out of 
tents Into safer, more dignified, temporary shelter," Cutts said. "It's a 
really dramatic situation that we're dealing with at the moment."

 
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