All-consuming mud, sinking tents, freezing conditions, and difficult access. Winter makes living in an IDP camp, and the struggle for food, clean water, and shelter even more unbearable than usual. What was supposed to be a temporary solution for millions of internally displaced Syrians has turned into a long-term reality.
According to OCHA, 4.6 million people in northwest Syria are bracing for another cold winter season of flooding, snowstorms, and unpredictable weather events. Half of this population depends on winter assistance to meet their most basic needs, the majority of whom are women and children living in these camps with limited or no access to heating, electricity, water supply or adequate sewage systems.
The Syrian Association for Relief and Development (SARD) teams are currently leveling and graveling dirt roads, installing rainwater drainage networks, and insulating tents in order to mitigate the impact of harsh winter conditions and reduce the risk of flooding. SARD’s winterization work will benefit 1,200 families living in camps. SARD also provides vouchers to another 1,050 families to purchase winter supplies such as heating fuel and blankets.
"Our teams are working hard to finish the winterization before the harsh winter weather arrives so that these families can be as prepared as possible. We are doing what we can to meet immediate needs in this dire situation, but long-term and sustainable strategies are what these families really need. We don’t want them just to survive winter; we need to invest in their futures”, explains SARD Director Alaa Wafai.
As the world turns its focus and funding away from Syria, funding for local organizations like SARD is becoming harder and harder to come by. In the meantime, in the middle of what is predicted to be the harshest winter on record, when these familys' needs will be at their height, everyone is anxiously awaiting an extension of the resolution regarding the UN’s cross-border aid mechanism at Bab-al-Hawa. SARD and the broader NGO community cannot meet the immense needs in camps this winter or invest in long-term and sustainable strategies without the support of the international community.
For a decade, SARD has been providing life-saving, life-sustaining, and community-galvanizing humanitarian assistance in Syria. Despite the immense challenges, SARD’s Director Alaa expresses his hope for the future, “We hope the international community and donors will understand the value of partnering with local NGOs like SARD and support our efforts towards early recovery and resilience building, led by Syrians for Syrians."