By Chris Niles
ERBIL, Iraq, 2 December 2013 —UNICEF has received its first shipment of winter clothing and shoes for Syrian refugee babies and children in Iraq.
Two truckloads of supplies came from Turkey. UNICEF will assemble them into complete kits which will be distributed in the camps in northern Iraq.
There are about 220,000 Syrian refugees in northern Iraq, half of whom are children.
“Preparing the camps for winter is our highest immediate priority,” said UNICEF Communication Specialist Jeffrey Bates. “About 62,000 refugees have crossed the border since it opened on August 15. Most of them arrived with only the summer clothes they stood up in. It gets very cold and wet in northern Iraq in the winter and women and children are the most vulnerable to all the suffering that that implies.”
UNICEF’s response, which includes catering to refugees who live in host communities, will ensure that about 70,000 children have basic supplies for the winter, in a region where temperatures can fall as low as -5 centigrade.
In the coming weeks UNICEF will be distributing 50,000 blankets, 8,000 hypothermia kits for which will benefit 40,000 children, as well as warm winter clothes for 27,000 babies and children.
UNICEF is also working with partners to ensure that buildings such as schools are heated. And as acute respiratory infections are set to increase during the winter, it’ll be distributing health kits with essential medicine for treating childhood diseases.
“This package will ensure the survival of the most vulnerable Syrian refugee children with warm clothes blankets, health care, warm bathing opportunities and access to warm learning spaces,” Bates said.
UNICEF staff take delivery of two truckloads of children’s clothing and shoes as its winterization programme begins in Erbil, northern Iraq. The supplies are part of a larger programme which will ensure that refugee children have blankets and other supplies to protect them over the winter. ©UNICEF/Iraq-2013/Niles