Winter in parts of Syria will be harsh, dark and bitterly cold. Temperatures will remain low and periods of snow will be life-threatening for some of the 7 million Syrians who are internally displaced. For many, this will be their seventh year displaced.
Refugees and the internally displaced fear the next few months. Refugee camps are overcrowded and underprepared for the winter, there is an absence of basic supplies including food, clothes, blankets, and medication. There has been a rise in ‘informal’ camps, with Syrians living in makeshift tents or mud huts in the deserts. As the weather and situation steadily deteriorate this winter, civilians are praying for answers.
Currently, there are an estimated 1,000,000 people who are besieged in Damascus, Homs, Deir ez-Zour and Idlib Provinces, with a further 1,300,000 people living under siege-like conditions and at risk of becoming completely besieged.
The current situation is bleak, with no apparent end to the conflict, while for those living in one of the government’s besieged areas, there presents yet further challenges. Life is difficult on a daily basis, but the cold and dark, coupled with the lack of fuel, food and fire wood, remains a disaster. “We have been besieged for the last five years, when the firewood ends we will just have our clothes and gods help,” said Mohammed Burq, a resident from al-Houra in Hama Province.
The government’s siege, coinciding with fighting between local rebel groups, has further restricted the desperately required aid deliveries. Doctors and aid workers say medicine for illnesses is severely lacking and the current medical equipment needs replacing, with many unable to provide regular and routine vaccinations. Cases of tuberculosis, hepatitis and measles have been widely reported, as well as cases of severe malnutrition, especially in East Ghouta.
It is widely reported that the Assad regime has used ‘starve and kneel’ techniques in numerous areas under siege. The lack of progress on peace talks underscores the suffering of civilians. As the Assad government continues to enforce sieges in Syria, hopes are dashed that aid will enter the areas this winter.