Winter weather causes dire situation in Syria: UN

The impact of winter weather, including flooding, on vulnerable people in Syria, has created what a UN spokesman called on Wednesday a “really dire situation.”

“We just want to give you an update on the really dire situation in relation to the floods and winter conditions and the impacts they’ve had on the vulnerable people throughout the country,” Stephane Dujarric, chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told reporters at a press briefing.

An estimated 2.2 million internally displaced people (IDPs) live in inadequate shelter conditions across Syria. There are 67,000 IDPs at 200 sites in the battle-weary northwest of the country. Nearly 11,000 tents reportedly have been damaged or destroyed. The tent damage has more than doubled in less than one week.

“We, alongside our humanitarian partners, are mobilizing additional assistance to support impacted families,” Dujarric said. “As of Jan. 1, more than 1.6 million individuals across Syria were reached with winter-related assistance, including 850,000 (people) in northwest Syria, 250,000 people in northeast Syria and almost 500,000 people in government-held areas.”

“We remain concerned that many vulnerable families are not sufficiently prepared for winter due to the continued funding gap of 24.5 million U.S. dollars for winterization efforts across Syria,” he said. “More than 500,000 people could be unreachable with winter assistance.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) said in a release it and its humanitarian partners are mobilizing additional assistance support for affected families.

OCHA said heating fuel and wood are in scarce supply and, when available, prohibitively expensive for families with limited incomes. The informal national average price of household gas has increased 36 percent in the past six months. Across the country, adequate shelter, heating solutions and fuel remain an urgent need.