Syria refugees need help as winter looms: Red Cross

AFP , Monday 17 Nov 2014

Syrians forced by nearly four years of war to flee their homes are in desperate need of more aid as winter approaches, a humanitarian group warned on Monday.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said the enormous numbers of Syrians displaced by the war faced plummeting temperatures and heavy rains.

"Vulnerable communities and families without adequate shelter, living in damaged or incomplete buildings, are struggling to prepare for the expected low temperatures in Syria and neighbouring countries," it said in a statement.

More than half of Syria's population has been forced to flee their homes since the conflict began in March 2011.

Some 3.2 million have fled beyond the country's borders, and more than 7.2 million have become internally displaced, according to the United Nations.

In its statement, the IFRC urged donors to act quickly in order to help the displaced and refugees.

"From the past experience, we know that getting support to communities on time is vital. Delays now could mean the aid doesn't arrive when the temperatures drop," said Michael Higginson, head of the IFRC's crisis team for Syria.

In past years, countless Syrian refugees and displaced families have had to face snowstorms with little more than a flimsy tents to protect themselves.

The group said it hoped to distribute 50,000 cold-weather kits inside Syria, each containing mattresses and thermal blankets, but needed five million Swiss francs ($5.2 million) to fund them.

Syria's war began as a pro-democracy movement, but later evolved into a savage civil war after the government unleashed a brutal crackdown against dissent.

The United Nations has described Syria's war as "the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century".

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