Catastrophic flooding and snow storms hit displacement camps in northwest Syria

More than 3000 families have lost their shelters in Idlib’s camps after torrential rain and snow hit the province between 16 and 20 January. More than 400 tents have been completely destroyed and 2,900 damaged, leaving thousands of people without shelter as temperatures drop further. Some camps have been completely abandoned while many families are forced to live in flooded tents.

On Tuesday 19 January, six-year-old Abd al-Razzaq al-Jubasi died when his shelter collapsed in the storms. Three other children were injured in the same Kafr Nabudah camp in Aqrabat, north of Idlib when block walls or nylon roofs were destroyed.

More than one and a half million people continue to live in overcrowded and unsanitary camps since Syrian regime and Russian bombs forced people from their homes last year.

White Helmets volunteers have been helping families evacuate and providing first aid to those who need it, digging channels to drain rainwater and cleaning existing channels they prepared in advance of winter. They are also dredging mud to clear roads, building new roads and creating barriers to prevent flooding in further camps.

White Helmet volunteer Abdullatif Suleiman in Idlib said: “We are constantly getting calls for help from different camps across the region. When we rushed to respond, tents had flooded and fallen on people while they were asleep. Families were standing outside with their children in the freezing temperatures with nowhere else to go. Parents resorted to gathering rocks to fashion some sort of raised bed for their children to be able to sleep above the water levels.

 “It is so heartbreaking and inhumane. Nobody should live through this cruelty. My colleagues and I are working around the clock to provide all the help we can and ease their suffering a bit, but we all know that the only solution is for people to be able to return safely to their homes.”

Laila Kiki, Executive Director of The Syria Campaign said:

“This catastrophe is the result of the UN’s failure in Syria over the past 10 years. Families should be back home, not living in makeshift camps but Assad and Putin are not allowing people to return. Every winter UN agencies fail to prepare, respond adequately or take real action to prevent future disasters. It is unbelievable that the UN seems to be taken by surprise by bad weather every year. The UN must explain what it is doing to prepare and give Syrians answers about their inadequate response.

“With limited resources, local organizations are left alone trying hard to protect the communities they serve. Whether inside Syria or in nearby countries, displaced Syrians are paying the utmost price of the systematic failure of the UN and international aid agencies.”

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