UNICEF – As seasonal cold winds, freezing rain, and frigid temperatures close in on conflict-torn parts of the Middle East, UNICEF and partners have begun the distribution of warm clothes and other winter items to ensure that one million of the most vulnerable children are kept warm and healthy.

“After all that they’ve suffered on account of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the onset of winter and the growing number of families being displaced means that many children across the region desperately need protection,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “However, due to critical issues of access and funding gaps, many children will sadly not be reached.”

In Syria, UNICEF is working to assist 400,000 internally displaced children. But due to a funding shortage, only 217,600 winter kits have been purchased for distribution in four priority areas of Homs, Tartous, Aleppo, and Qamishly. Access to many areas remains limited or impossible due to ongoing fighting.

Equally challenging is the situation in Iraq, where UNICEF is distributing 223,000 winter kits in Kurdish areas hosting some 500,000 children displaced by fighting over recent months. Currently, plans are underway on how best to address the influx of newly arrived Syrian children seeking shelter in camps, school building and rural hamlets. With the current funding shortage, more than 200,000 children are expected to go without warm clothes this winter.

“The humanitarian needs are unprecedented and the conflicts in the region are complex,” said Paul Molinaro, UNICEF Regional Chief of Supply. “To address these challenges, we have undertaken a number of measures, including local procurement of many winter supplies to ensure children get the supplies they need in time.”

In Lebanon, UNICEF winter kits will reach over 100,000 children and nearly 75,000 children will receive vouchers to purchase clothes in local markets. To keep learning and
recreation spaces warm, UNICEF will deliver plastic sheeting and insulation layers for improved protection of temporary tented schools and Child Friendly Spaces.

In Jordan, UNICEF will provide winter kits to 72,000 children. An additional 54,500 children will receive vouchers. In Turkey, UNICEF response will reach 100,000 children. This is the first winter away from home for child refugees coming from Ayn al-Arab (Kobani) area.

Together, the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are affecting the lives of over 7 million children. That compares to 5.6 million children one year ago.

For more information about current needs and UNICEF’s Regional Winter Response, please visit: http://childrenofsyria.info/winter/