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Early Storms Foretell Another Hard Winter for Syria Refugees

  • Elizabeth Arrott

A winter-worthy storm system pummeling parts of the Middle East has hit Syrian refugees especially hard, and the worst is yet to come.

As if there weren't enough misery for the millions of Syrians uprooted by civil war, winter has come early.

In eastern Lebanon, refugees in make-shift camps struggle through recent snows.

“Believe me, the situation is so bad. We need diesel, tents. No one offered us any help,” said Omar, a Syrian refugee.

Some are trying. But at a U.N. refugee center in Beirut the challenges are clear. Spokeswoman Roberta Russo described the situation.

"There are 830,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon and we are especially concerned about the over 120,000 of them who are living currently in tents. And obviously there are families, thousands and thousands of children, who are really really affected by the cold and the weather conditions."

In Jordan, home now to some half a million refugees, conditions are difficult even without snow. At the U.N. camp in Zaatari, chill rains turn the ground to mud and water pours into the tents.

“We came from one tragedy to another. There is no snow in Zaatari, but the rain and the bitter cold are just as bad. We are living in tragic circumstances,” said Abu Rafaat, one of the camp’s residents.

This will be the refugees' third winter of war, and the prospect of finding more permanent homes for them is slim. Amnesty International recently pleaded with European nations to provide safer havens.

For those left in Syria itself, winter worries mount. Many in Damascus have been able to ride out the weather, but express concern for their countrymen.

“There are some people who don't find fuel or something like this to be warm [themselves]. And some people lost their homes,” said Damascus resident Ahmed Abdeen.

The World Food Program says it has begun distributing cooking and heating fuel around the capital.

But in harder hit areas, the war and the weather keep taking their toll. Rights groups say young children have begun dying from the cold. And winter has officially yet to even begin.
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