World Vision’s Sevil Omer recently traveled to the Middle East, serving with our Syria crisis response, based in Amman, Jordan. She shares insights and the latest from our work providing winter relief to the most vulnerable affected by Syria’s conflict: Children.
Join us as we partner with One Day's Wages to double your ability to help children and families displaced by conflict in Syria and Iraq! For every dollar you give to One Day's Wages' World Vision campaign, they will match, up to $50,000.
The day dawned gunmetal gray and the cold shook me awake as I walked down a peaceful street in Gaziantep, a city in south eastern Turkey near the Syrian border.
A man wearing a black painter’s brush moustache and crisp white uniform opened the door to a baklava shop, delivering a warm aroma of butter and honey into the air. Across the street, a Turkish mother chased after her son, lecturing him on the need for his jacket to ward off December’s chill.
A smile flashed across my face, thinking I share the mom’s struggle in this all-too-familiar scene with my daughters and winter coats.
About 30 or so miles from Gaziantep is the Syrian border, where children face a far grimmer day.
The crisis facing more than 11 million people displaced by Syria’s civil strife is becoming even more miserable with winter. Bitter cold is gripping the Middle East; in northern Syria, its rain and frigid temperatures; in Lebanon, it’s snow and freezing rain; in Jordan, it’s cold; and in northern Iraq—it’s all of the above.
Snowstorms have further impacted children, with reports of four dead in Syria due to winter. More children are at risk of exposure to the effects of the harsh weather, including respiratory infections and indoor pollution as people use unconventional methods to warm themselves.
More storms are on their way, meteorologists warn.
There seems to be no hope.
Traveling to Turkey and the Middle East on behalf of World Vision was a privilege. Even more so, it’s an honor to share with you the rewarding work carried out daily in the countries where our staff are working tirelessly in their commitment to serve the most vulnerable.
Upon my return to the U.S., I’ve learned that land and sea are among the few things that separate us in our humanity.
Please know, your outpouring of prayers and generous support are providing comfort for children like Khalida, 8, in northern Iraq. She was living in a cement stall once used by farmers to sell their vegetables and chickens at the market. She collected plastic containers so women like her mother, widowed by war, could burn them inside their tents to keep their families warm.
World Vision provided Khalida and her family with blankets, mattresses, and necessary winter aid during a distribution in Dohuk.
Also, know that this winter:
- In northern Syria, through partners World Vision plans to distribute winterization kits to 600 families in a settlement where heavy rains destroyed tents and everything else. This month, families received food baskets—2,950 of them—and 1,700 families living outside the camp also received winter kits.
- In the Kurdistan region of Iraq, vulnerable communities received blankets, winter clothing, plastic sheeting, mattresses, and gas heaters.
- Last year in Jordan, World Vision partnered to provide 26,000 winter coats to children in the camp. Many of the kids still wear them.
- In Lebanon, World Vision is working with UNICEF to help refugees and vulnerable Lebanese communities across more than 40 sites in the Bekaa Valley face winter. The support will include winter clothes, cash vouchers for clothes, flood mitigation, and heating for tents to protect children.
During winter’s first massive storm, World Vision Lebanon’s Ralph Baydoun, a communications officer, traveled to Lebanon’s Bekka Valley, where refugees are living in informal settlements near the Syria border. When I Skyped him to learn of his wellbeing, Ralph had other concerns:
Sevil Omer: btw: are you OK?
ralph baydoun: :) … the most alarming, is that the Syrian community in Lebanon, seems to [be] getting used to the situation.
Sevil Omer: of living in dire conditions?
ralph baydoun: yes
ralph baydoun: exactly
Ralph sent back video footage of the storm. It’s worth watching.
This week, we're partnering with One Day's Wages to double your ability to help children and families displaced by conflict in Syria and Iraq! For every dollar you give to One Day's Wages' World Vision campaign, they will match, up to $50,000. Give now!