Two children stand in a flooded road out side of a tent in a displacement camp in North Western Aleppo, Syria.

A displacement camp in North Western Aleppo, Syria in the aftermath of severe storms and flooding.

North West Syria: Severe Floods Kill Child, Force 20,000+ from Homes As Country Marks Nearly 10 years of Conflict

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Jan. 19, 2021) – A six-year-old boy has died and more than 20,000 children have been displaced from their homes by heavy flooding in North West Syria, Save the Children said today.

At least 41,200 people have been affected by a heavy storm, which has caused extreme flooding on Monday in northern Idlib and western Aleppo. Most of the people affected have already faced years of being uprooted from their homes due to conflict.

At least 62 camps and 2,558 tents have been damaged or destroyed by the floods, often sweeping away the only possessions people had after nearly a decade of displacement.

Tens of thousands of people scattered to find shelter from the ongoing storm in schools and mosques. Others were forced to sleep in the open air last night, in temperatures below freezing.

The storm has also caused damage to two schools, adding to fears for education in an area where Save the Children’s partners have reported losing access to nearly 50 percent of students since the Covid-19 outbreak in March last year. The two temporary learning spaces, which temporarily closed, were run by Save the Children’s partners ATAA and Syria Relief in Idlib camps.

Here in the camp, our tents are flooded,” said ten-year-old Mazen*, who lives in a camp in northern Idlib. ”There is mud, and the ground has turned into a swamp. We can’t move or leave our tents. We want to go out to get bread, but we can’t. We can’t get anything. We don’t have heating. It’s cold, and the rainfall is very heavy. We warm up over bonfires using wood provided for us. It is not enough.”

With more than 1.5 million displaced people across North West Syria, extreme weather this winter has wreaked havoc on families already reeling from ten years of conflict, displacement, and Covid-19 spreading uncontrolled across the region.

“I was displaced from southern rural Idlib around a year and four months ago, said 30-year-old Ayman.* “We struggle with the same issue every year, heavy rainfall that causes flooding, a deluge of mud, and swampy ground. A tent was completely flooded, so we surrounded it with grit [to stop the water going in] and fixed it. We are desperate for any source of heating, fuel, wood, anything. In these harsh circumstances, most people can’t afford heating.”

Hundreds of additional camps across the area have also become hard to access, cutting off thousands of families from life-saving humanitarian aid.

“I am saddened by the news of the death of a child following the severe floods in the North West,” said Sonia Khush Save the Children’s Syria Response Director. “This is another loss of life in almost ten years of suffering for the people of Syria. Thousands of families will not be able to recover from this storm for a long time. Many have lost everything they worked hard to collect. And children don’t know where they are going to spend the night.

“We call for the urgent scaling up of relief efforts for children and families in affected areas. Cross-border humanitarian access needs to be facilitated urgently, and all parties to the conflict have to reach a solution that spares thousands further from suffering.”

Save the Children and partners are trying to provide essential humanitarian aid but have not reached three of the camps due to the roads turning into swamps. These conditions also cut off access to camps where a third partner, Violet, implements vaccination services and where a family planning center was set up.

With the rapid inflation of the Syrian Pound coupled with the coronavirus pandemic, the recent flooding will only exacerbate the needs on the ground, Save the Children said. People desperately need heating, fuel, cash for the rehabilitation of tents, cash for transportation, food baskets, tents, mattresses and blankets.

Save the Children’s partners have already started planning their response to provide weatherproofing kits and repair water drainage networks around the camp.

* Names changed for protection

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