After 7 years of a relentless conflict in Syria, more than 2.5 million children have been forced to flee and are now living outside Syria in neighbouring countries. UNICEF’s Ettie Higgins is on the ground in Jordan helping Syrian children and explains the challenges they now face as a brutal winter with freezing temperatures fast approaches.
A Message from Ettie
My name is Ettie Higgins and I am from Cork. I have worked for UNICEF for over a decade in countries like South Sudan, Somalia and Central African Republic. For the last three years, I’ve been working in Jordan helping children, including the large number of refugee children who have fled over the border from neighbouring Syria.
Winter is now making an already desperate situation even worse. The most vulnerable Syrian refugee families have exhausted all their resources and are struggling to survive. The parents I meet are being forced to make decisions that are unimaginable to most parents back home in Ireland – I’ve met mothers who have to send their 10-year old sons to work and others who have had to watch their daughters as young as 13 or 14 get married. Despite the courage and determination, these parents demonstrate on a daily basis, many are facing another winter more fearful than ever before for their children’s future.
Many people don’t realise that the region experiences very cold winters, which can include sub-zero temperatures, strong winds, snow and flooding. Just a few weeks after the Christmas holidays last year, a winter storm hit Jordan causing devastation for Syrian families living in tented settlements on the outskirts of the capital city.
I will never forget one little girl called Malak. She was still shaking from the memories of the storm after the tent she lives in collapsed on her head as she slept. She had to crawl in the darkness to find safety. All of her belongings had been spoiled by the rain and she had no dry clothes. Thanks to help like yours, we gave Malak a winter clothing kit. She was so happy and insisted on carrying her own boxes even though they were taller than her. She couldn’t stop smiling as she tried on her new jacket and boots.
It’s help like yours that gives hope to children during the dark and cold winter and provides a safety net for families who are struggling. Warm clothing and proper footwear means that children can walk to school, even through mud or snow, and concentrate better in class. Our winter baby clothing kits keep the youngest and most vulnerable children safe and wrapped up warm.
When you support UNICEF, you protect children and give their families the dignity they deserve (Learn more about how you can support UNICEF here).
As winter descends on the region once more, children who are living without any proper shelter are struggling in very cold and damp conditions which put their health and well-being at serious risk. In the health clinics, UNICEF supports in the refugee camps, we see a rise in respiratory infections during this time, especially for children under five years.
The support that people in Ireland have given to UNICEF over the years of this crisis has saved many children’s lives and continues to help us to provide clean water, vaccinations, an education, warm winter clothing and hope to the most vulnerable.
Syrian refugee families need your support now more than ever as organisations like UNICEF face severe funding shortages. I really hope you will be able to help children now. We really do appreciate everything you do. Thank you so much for your continued support.
From all the children and the UNICEF team here in Jordan, have a very Happy Christmas.