By Toby Fricker
ZA’ATARI, Jordan, 08 December 2013 – Hussam and his three children arrived in Jordan at the tail end of last winter. They never expected to experience another one in the desert refugee camp where temperatures can drop below zero.
“We came from Syria with only the clothes on our backs,” says Hussam. “This year is a little bit better because we have a caravan, not a tent, but it’s still not an ideal situation.”
Today, Hussam is picking up one of 25,000 winter clothing kits for children aged 0 to 5-years. The boxes include items such as jumpers, shoes and gloves. In addition, more than 24,000 blankets, supplied by the IKEA Foundation, will also help to keep the youngest warm.
Bracing for another winter
It’s a 45-minute walk from Hussam’s caravan to the distribution centre in Za’atari. The desert wind is harsh and already cold. It gets through to your bones, a clear signal that winter has arrived.
For families with young children it’s a worrying time. The cold weather can result in a higher number of respiratory infections and other illnesses.
“Keeping children warm is a key preventive measure to protect the youngest from common colds that can easily develop into pneumonia during the winter months,” says Mohammad Amiri, UNICEF Jordan’s Chief of Health and Nutrition.
Clothing provides protection
Arriving back at the caravan, Hussam is mobbed by his children. They push the box into the makeshift yard that provides shelter between three caravans housing the extended family.
Five year old Younis is particularly pleased, the brown boots fit perfectly. Instead of running around barefoot his feet will now at least have some protection. While the orange gloves and matching woolly hat are three and a half-year old Mahmoud’s favourite.
The clothes are part of a wider winterisation plan carried out by UN agencies and partners. This includes gas heaters that are being distributed to families by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Supporting families at the border
UNICEF is also supplying clothing kits, along with some basic hygiene materials, to Jordan’s north-eastern border with the Syrian Arab Republic. An average of 300 people cross here every day many of whom have spent up to a week traveling across the eastern desert.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who supports the Jordanian border guards, distributes the boxes on arrival. It’s a little relief for families fleeing conflict who arrive cold and exhausted.