1.5 million vulnerable children in the Middle East threatened as winter approaches


1.5 million vulnerable children in the Middle East threatened as winter approaches

UNICEF facing HK$468 million funding gap for lifesaving winter supplies and cash assistance that could leave 1.5 million children out in the cold.

AMMAN/ HONG KONG, 26 October 2017 – The coming winter is the latest threat to children affected by crises in the Middle East. As UNICEF races to provide warm clothing, winter supplies and blankets before the cold sets in, the organisation is facing a HK$468 million gap that could leave up to 1.5 million children exposed to the cold.

Freezing temperatures, storms and heavy snowfall will compound the many hardships faced by families affected by conflict who are already struggling to survive with the bare minimum across Iraq, Syria, the State of Palestine and neighbouring refugee host countries. Many have been displaced by violence and live in camps or makeshift shelters, with little protection against the piercing cold.

Families’ resources are completely depleted from years of conflict, displacement and unemployment, making the purchase of warm clothing and heating fuel unaffordable. If schools are not kept warm, dropout rates are expected to rise.

“Without help, the cold could be yet another harsh blow to vulnerable children in the region who have already been through so much,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Children’s health is weak from undernutrition, poor healthcare and displacement. Hypothermia and respiratory infections are a serious threat – if left untreated, children will die.”

Ahead of winter UNICEF aims to provide:

• Winter clothing kits to over 800,000 children across the region, including to families that have been displaced by recent fighting,
• Cash assistance to the families of more than 320,000 vulnerable children,
• Child friendly spaces and school heating for 105,000 children,
• Thermal blankets for almost 240,000 children.

To date, UNICEF has received less than 20 per cent of the HK$569.4 million required to cover the winter needs of the most vulnerable children affected by crisis in the region.