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after the snowstorm, camps for displaced people “completely cut off from the world”
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after the snowstorm, camps for displaced people “completely cut off from the world”
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The heavy snowfalls experienced in northern Syria from January 18 caused heavy damage in at least 47 camps for the displaced, as evidenced by videos shared online, in particular filmed in the region of Afrin and of Azaz. Three children died and roads were blocked, making it difficult to deliver aid.

It was the regions of the governorate of Aleppo, near the Turkish border, which were the most impacted, with sub-zero temperatures which created the favorable context for heavy snowfall. The camps for displaced people found themselves covered with a thick white coat, under the weight of which many tents collapsed.

Since 2011, nearly 3 million people displaced by the Syrian conflict have lived in the northwest of the country, controlled by opposition forces supported by Turkey. Among them, 1.7 million live in crowded camps, made up of tents or informal and unfinished dwellings, without roofs or insulation. Winter storms of this kind are rare in the Middle East and temperatures could reach levels not seen for 40 years, with -14 ° C announced, according to the NGO Care International.

At least 362 tents in 31 sites were damaged, and 2,000 people affected according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The organization also reports the death of a child in the Qastal Miqdad camp after the roof of a tent collapsed in the snow.

Many displaced people tried to remove the snow from the tents still standing.

“Camps were almost engulfed in snow”

Ahmad Nahal is field coordinator for the NGO Molham Team, which helps displaced people in Syria.

The snow started falling at 8 p.m., and it lasted five hours. Camps were almost engulfed in snow. People lack everything, they don’t have electricity or heating, and there aren’t enough blankets. The Syrian Civil Defense and NGOs went to help people, those whose tents were destroyed and who were accommodated in schools or mosques.

“Families feel abandoned”

Qusai Al Shabyb is a Syrian activist and journalist, who documents the situation of the displaced on his TikTok page. He visited several camps affected by the weather.

It stopped snowing on January 20, but the camps are still covered in a deep layer of snow. Snowfall has horrific consequences for life in the camps: most of the people who live there do not have a fridge to store their food, and so usually you have to do daily shopping to preserve it, but in At this time it is impossible to leave the camps and go shopping in town… There are also very few heaters, diesel or firewood, so most families have no access to heat in winter.

Photo taken by a drone above the Shiran camp, January 20, 2022 © Qusai Al Shabyb

But people adapt to the snow, even if it increases the difficulties of their daily life. Today I met a woman from the Qastal camp in Afrin, who explained to me that her family has to feed on snow because the roads to go shopping are cut off. It also melts snow for use as drinking water or for washing.

There are also safety problems, children have fallen while slipping because of the snow, this can seriously injure them because in general the camps are in mountainous areas. I met a man, in his thirties, who fell and was seriously injured when he was already handicapped in his legs and walked on crutches.

During one of my visits, I noticed before leaving that the families had started to evacuate the children and the elderly to the villages surrounding the camp, in anticipation of another night of frost. People feel abandoned because of the lack of medical services and lack of water and food in the camps.

Attempts by some to warm up have turned tragic: in a camp north of Aleppo, two children died in the fire of their tent caused by a heater inside the structure, reports CNN.

Groups of voluntary helpers mobilized to clear the roads and bring gasoline and blankets to the camps. Concern about the risk of flooding, when the snow melts, is high.

More than 6.7 million people have been displaced inside Syria as a result of the war that has ravaged the country since 2011. An equal number – 6.8 million – live as refugees in other countries , notably in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

after the snowstorm, camps for displaced people “completely cut off from the world”
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