Cold. The kind of cold that seeps into your bones. The kind that comes from having wet feet, day after day in the rainy season. The kind that comes from sleeping on concrete floors. That comes from fleeing with only the clothes on your back in warmer weather. That comes every winter.
As we deliver food packs to families who fled the ongoing violence in northeast Syria, the most common thing we hear about is the cold.[5:10 p.m., 2019-12-05]
Michel: It is dark, and there is no electricity.[5:24 p.m., 2019-12-05]
Michel: The most urgent need is anything for heat. There are also children and newborn babies in all of the schools.
This is the message our colleague sent a few days ago, in the middle of a food distribution for displaced families currently sheltering in schools in northeast Syria. Michel has seen what happens when displaced families are too cold for too long: the rates of illness skyrocket, and the most vulnerable among them–young children and the elderly–don’t always make it through until spring.
The need is urgent, and we’re bringing it to you.
Staying Warm and Dry
Our basic approach to helping families stay warm throughout winter is probably the same as yours: stay dry and wear layers. As our distributions reflect families’ situation, the contents of winterization kits change as needs change.
We’re currently preparing kits that include items like:
- long underwear and socks
- hats, scarves, and jackets
- waterproof boots
- water-resistant bedrolls
These bedrolls—like souped-up sleeping bags—are always well received. They’re made at a local factory and serve multiple functions. Zipped up, they make a comfortable, padded bed with a built-in pillow. During the day, unzipped and spread out on the floor, they make the perfect place to set babies down for naps, sit to eat lunch, and gather to talk through the day.
Help that Doesn’t Hurt
As always, we’re committed to sourcing supplies as locally as we can. These “keep-warm kits” are no exception. We always aim to help in ways that don’t hurt the local economy. The last time we visited the factory where the bedrolls are made, we made a detour off the main road to see how the neighborhoods impacted by war are faring. The scene was pretty bleak.
We put together kits to help in as broad a way as possible:
- We buy hand-knits (like hats and scarves) from local women who need to be home to take care of their families.
- We buy items like boots from local shops, to help them rebuild their businesses.
- We buy things like bedrolls and long-underwear from local factories who employ local workers—many of whom were displaced and all of whom were impacted by war. Keeping local factories working helps their workers’ families regain some of what was lost to war.
Warmer weather is months away, and it’s impossible to predict when displaced Syrian families will be able to return home. Even then, the likelihood is they will return to a house that has been destroyed, or completely looted.
Every local organization is doing what they can to meet needs, but to be perfectly honest—the need is massive.