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A woman and two boys huddle together with a warm blanket wrapped around themselvesA woman and two boys huddle together with a warm blanket wrapped around themselvesA woman and two boys huddle together with a warm blanket wrapped around themselves

'It is torture to see your child suffer' - surviving winter in freezing Syria

'It is torture to see your child suffer' - surviving winter in freezing Syria
Story19 July 2023Kathy Armstrong

Distraught parents burn their shoes while their children cry for warmth amid freezing conditions. This unimaginable torture is the harsh reality for millions of Syrians every year when temperatures plummet below zero.

Razia* lives with her husband and their seven children in a tent in an informal settlement camp in Northern Syria. They were forced to flee their home several years ago due to ongoing conflict.

Razia was relieved to receive non-food item (NFI) vouchers from Concern Worldwide as part of our Winterisation programme, which is funded by the European Union. Thanks to the vouchers, the family could buy a heavy blanket and a mattress, which gave them some insulation against the harsh weather.

They also received a hygiene kit consisting of gloves, soap, shampoo, and cleaning materials, as well as food vouchers that enabled Razia to buy rice, cooking oil, and bulgur.

‘Please, I want to be warm’

A woman stands in a tent wrapped in a thick fleece blanket
Razia* wrapped in a blanket that she bought using NFI vouchers Photo: Jennifer Nolan/Concern Worldwide

Razia spoke candidly about how difficult life was for her family before they received support from Concern.

She explained: “At first, we were depending on diesel for our stove. But it was little in quantity. Then we started collecting wood. Sometimes, we even burned our shoes just to keep warm."

The anguish of witnessing her child suffer in such weather conditions tormented Razia.

It is torture when you see your child suffering from the weather conditions. He is sick and you can do nothing.

Razia, an internally displaced woman in Syria

“The children say; ‘Please, I want to be warm’.

“I swear, for the last three months I have slept hungry. I do not eat. I prefer to give the food to my children. I have four boys and three girls.

“Concern is the only NGO (non-governmental organisation) who reached us.”

Winterisation programme

The latest winterisation package provided by Concern was worth $180 per family.

Rather than distributing the items directly, Concern opted to supply vouchers. This approach injects money into the local market, supporting businesses and fostering economic resilience.

A woman holds a mattress outside of her tent
Razia* with a mattress she bought with the NFI vouchers Photo: Jennifer Nolan/Concern Worldwide

Sabah* is also an internally displaced person and lives in the camp with his family.

He also received assistance in the form of NFI and food vouchers from Concern. He emphasised the extreme challenges they face: “We are suffering from two things. The first one is hunger, the second is cold. Even if it was just one of them, we could endure it but facing both is too harsh for us. No words can describe our emotions.”

*Names have been changed

Jamna feeding her daughter Shanti

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