Even as fierce fighting rages on between Syrian rebels and the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, UNICEF has warned in a statement issued Thursday of rapidly deteriorating conditions within Syrian refugee camps in north Jordan.
The release details the conditions facing children living among the estimated 55,000 Syrian refugees in the over-crowded Za’atari camp, which have worsened due to harsh weather conditions including heavy rains, snowfall and sub-zero temperatures sweeping across northern Jordan.
The rains have resulted in widespread flooding and swamping of tents, in the bargain even devastating the camp draining system. Deep mud is making it harder for the water to flow out and also making it difficult for the relief trucks to access the camp.
What is worrying, as gleaned from the UNICEF statement, is the flooding of several tents/areas, especially the child friendly spaces. One tent, says the statement, which used to house unaccompanied minors, has now caved in due to heavy downpour.
However, UNICEF has assured that along with its partners, it is working tirelessly on a daily basis to maintain the provision of services to the camp. Particularly it is trying to ensure that all refugees have access to water, latrines and showers.
The UNICEF statement quoting its Jordan Representative, Dominique Hyde said: "The next 72 hours will be a critical test of our ability to meet the basic needs of children and their families at Za'atari."
Further, Hyde was quoted as stating: "Alongside the Government of Jordan and our and other partners, we are doing everything possible to ensure services are maintained and that children stay warm and dry."
According to the UNICEF representative not having sufficient funds has been one prime constraint. “The resources we raised in 2012 have been exhausted, and no fresh funds have come for this year. We urgently appeal to the international community and donors in general to commit fresh funding as soon as possible,” Hyde added.
The fast worsening condition at Za’atari comes against the backdrop of continuing influx of refugees from across the border. Nearly 10,000 Syrians have arrived in neighboring Jordon since the beginning of January 2013.
For more details please contact Communications and Media Specialist UNICEF, Juliette Touma: +962-79-867-46-28 or +962-79-826-34-37, firstname.lastname@example.org
According to the UN’s latest estimate more than 60,000 people have lost their lives ever since protests erupted against the Bashar al-Assad regime in March 2011. With violence in Syria escalating to unprecedented levels, the Red Cross even termed it a civil war, a status with implications for potential war crimes prosecutions.
There are reports of refugees recounting harrowing stories of arbitrary violence against the civilian population in Syria. This includes aircraft bombing, shelling and mortars. It’s no wonder then the opposition and nations’ world over are accusing Assad’s forces of crimes against humanity.
This has naturally resulted in exodus of refugees in thousands leaving the war zones to safer havens in neighboring countries. Two countries, the most affected by this influx of refugees from war-torn Syria are Jordan and Lebanon other nations being Iraq, Turkey and Egypt.
Penny Sims, British Red Cross spokesperson said: “So far over 180,000 people have crossed the border into Jordan and more people are arriving every day. There are thousands of Syrian people living within towns and cities across Jordan, in desperate need of support.”
Fox News quoting a spokesman for a Jordanian charity said riots broke out in Za’atari’s Syrian refugee camp due to the harsh winter conditions. Seven aid workers were injured in the clashes. According to Ghazi Sarhan dozens of refugees were upset that their tents fell or were swept away in howling winds overnight. They then thrashed Jordanian aid workers with sticks and pelted them with stones as they distributed bread Tuesday.
With regard to Lebanon, which continues to host the largest Syrian refugee community, there are over 170,000 refugees according to reports, and they continue to stream across the border. Majority of them are seeking shelter in the northern side of Lebanon, with most of them coming from localities of Talkalakh and Homs. These were the areas taken over by government forces in the beginning of March last year, following nearly four weeks of bombings.
Also within Lebanon there are concerns about keeping a porous border with Syria, especially considering the increasing exodus of refugees arriving from Syria. Already the number of refugees has strained the local communities in which they are housed. As more refugees flood into Lebanon there is always a possibility of it sparking serious local tensions.
The fear is also it could lead to protests from some members of the government in Lebanon, especially theleaders, who have been supported by Assad for years and have mutual understanding with him. Although presently Lebanon does not oppose the influx of Syrian refugees into its territory, one cannot really say what holds there in the future. The sensitive issue of refugees migrating to Lebanon could become dicey in its domestic policy in the long run.
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