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UN official: Millions of displaced in Syria set to suffer this winter, require assistance

November 26, 2020 at 1:04 pm

Syrian refugees huddle around a fire to keep warm in Idlib, Syria on 28 December 2019 [Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency]

Millions of displaced people across northern Syria will need assistance during a winter that is expected to be “incredibly hard”, according to the United Nation’s acting deputy emergency relief coordinator.

Speaking at the online UN Security Council meeting yesterday, Ramesh Rajasingham, warned that the millions of displaced Syrians predominantly living in the north of the country will suffer this winter without provisions and aid. “Winter weather is proving to be incredibly hard for those without adequate shelter or basics like fuel for heating, blankets, warm clothes and shoes,” he stated.

Rajasingham predicted that as the weather turns colder over the coming weeks, “we expect people will, as they did last year, resort to burning anything they can find to try and keep themselves and their children warm, risking tent fires and poisoning from toxic fumes.” Along with this risk, fuel and wheat shortages have been ravaging the entire country over the past year, making the production of food and heating difficult.

The economic crisis Syria is undergoing has also sharply increased the prices of basic necessities such as food, in some cases rising by over 40 per cent.

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While the regime under President Bashar Al-Assad has implemented a subsidy system to ration and distribute bread and fuel at lower quantities and cheaper prices, it is not yet clear how the opposition-held territories in the north will deal with the crisis.

The situation in northern and north-west Syria has deteriorated further due to the fact that states like Russia and China this year supported the Assad regime by voting to close most of the humanitarian border crossings and limit the aid that arrives in the country from Turkey. Only one of the four border crossings now remains open, further threatening the livelihood of the displaced civilians.

Belgian Ambassador Philippe Kridelka told the council yesterday: “It defies logic how some member states in this council have chosen to limit humanitarian access in times of tremendous need, rather than guarantee it, prioritizing their own narrative over the well-being of Syrian civilians — be they men, women or children.”

The coronavirus pandemic is also predicted to add to the issues, with the poor healthcare system in the opposition-held territories being stretched beyond capacity.

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