More than 700,000 people are expected to become registered refugees of the Syrian conflict by the end of 2012, the U.N. said Monday, and now there's something else to worry about: Winter is coming, and Syria and the neighboring host countries are not prepared.
Among the refugees are 200,000 children, said the UK-based organization Save the Children, which is assisting refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
"As winter sets in, families are starting to take increasingly desperate measures to keep warm," Mike Penrose, Save the Children's humanitarian director, told the Telegraph. In the Al Qaem camp in Iraq, children have told us that they haven't washed for more than two weeks because the water is ice cold."
The 20-month conflict has displaced an estimated 2.5 million Syrians. Many are living without heat, in tents or simply without permanent shelter, sleeping in abandoned buildings.
“A lot of those people are running out of money and running out of resources,” Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency in Amman, Jordan, told the New York Times.
“These surrounding countries are really ill-equipped to handle this kind of crisis,” he said. “So far, these countries have shown generosity, but the international community can’t expect that generosity to continue if it does not help. That is one of our big fears.”
“Winterization affects so many things,” he said. “It affects health care and psycho-socialization. Kids aren’t going to school if it’s freezing cold," Robert Laprade, an associate vice president at Save the Children, told the Times.
“It’s difficult living in a bombed-out shelter for the rest of the winter after you left your home with sandals and shorts on."
Maya covers the U.N., Europe, and the Middle East for IBTimes. She joined the company in July 2012 after having previously worked with DNAinfo.com and Gawker.