After six years of war in Syria, winter is the latest threat to children.
In rural Quneitra in southern Syria, 400 families displaced by fighting live in makeshift shelters made with blocks, plastic sheets and tin. With extremely limited resources and amid heavy snowfall, these families continuously fight for their lives.
The camp was first established around mid-2014 with almost 80 families who fled fighting from surrounding rural Quneitra and Rural Damascus. Two and a half years later, the number of families has increased five-fold, with scarce access to humanitarian assistance.
Six-year old Laith: “I don’t like the camp because it’s too cold and it’s full of mud. I wish I could live in a home instead of the tent.” Sub-zero temperatures prevail for most of the winter months in this area, adding to families’ misery.
There is only one permanent wall in the room where Abu Nour, his wife and eight children live after leaving their home in rural Quneitra about three years ago. The rest of the room is made of plastic sheets that are too weak to bear the heavy load of snow.
“Every winter we struggle with the tent’s roof falling on our heads because of the snow,” Abu Nour says. “Yesterday when the roof fell again, we stayed at our neighbours’,” he continues. The dripping of melting snow has left their mattresses and all their other belongings wet.
Six-year old Nawar goes to a tent turned into a school by volunteers. “My eldest is 15. He had to drop out of school because there’s no elementary education here. I send my younger children to the tent school but there is no curriculum, nor they can move to a higher grade,” Nawar’s father says.
Omar, 9, left his home in rural Damascus: “I dropped out of school because my dad decided to send my brother Waleed to school. He couldn’t afford sending both of us. I wish I could go back to our house.”
Families make difficult choices, but education comes as a top priority for many. Six-year old Omar’s parents were able to afford paying for his education in a school in the village nearby. “I didn’t go today because it’s too cold. I can’t remember our home but I don’t like the camp,” Omar says.
Three-year old Rimas walks in the snow by her family’s tent in the camp where families live in dire need of humanitarian assistance. “We need everything,” a resident of the camp says. “We need proper shelters, health care, and proper water to drink and wash,” he continues.
Over 1.7 million children in Syria are out of school. Their future is at stake, and their dreams and potential hang in the balance. Six years of war, displacement and untold suffering have put these children through more hardship than any adult could bear.
Humanitarian access remains a fundamental challenge for two million children living in areas that cannot be reached regularly with life-saving assistance across Syria. There is an urgent need to protect children’s health, wellbeing and their moral and physical development.