Extreme cold is taking its toll on the millions of people who have fled from violence in Syria.

Winter storm Huda swept across the Middle East on 6 January, bringing heavy snow, rainfall, biting winds and freezing temperatures. Refugees and internally-displaced people are now desperately cold, and have little means to keep themselves warm.

On Monday, January 12, a Syrian child aged ten-years old died from the cold in Deir Al-Zour village. On the same day, in Arsal, Lebanon, a new-born baby, unable to warm up, also passed away.

Stranded and cold

Blankets and mattresses are all people have to protect themselves from the cold.

Blankets and mattresses are all people have to protect themselves from the cold.

They were not the only ones. At least five Syrian refugees, including a three-month-old baby girl and two other young children, died last week from the cold, and local news outlets report the deaths of 27 people who were internally displaced in Syria.

When Huda arrived, winds of up to 55 miles an hour whipped through the country, forcing road closures and leaving thousands of people stranded. Aid agencies are still struggling to get through the roads that are still packed with heavy snow.

Um Madyan is one of the many people who lost everything in the conflict. She and her husband used to live in Idlib, in northwest Syria, where they had a carpet shop. Bombing destroyed their home and killed Um Madyan’s husband, and she fled with their five children, desperate for safety. Now, they have nothing.

Too cold to sleep

The family has been living in a makeshift camp in north Syria for eight months. For the last few months temperatures have got steadily colder and they are now exhausted from fighting the cold.

“The storm that came uprooted my tent, and covered it. Then the water came in the tent. We felt like we were drowning. We didn’t know what to do to feel warm,” she said.

“We couldn’t sleep. It was too cold. We need clothes, especially for the children, and heaters to keep us warm.”

Islamic Relief has helped more than 113,000 Syrians by handing out warm clothes, blankets, mattresses, heaters and plastic sheets to keep the tents dry. In total, since November 2014, we have distributed 47,228 blankets and 7,700 mattresses. We have provided 400 pairs of children’s boots and 3,734 items of children’s clothing. Around 500 people are benefitting from heaters, and 11,200 people from warm stoves. 

But thousands more still need to be reached.

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