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As cold weather strikes, aid workers warn Syrian families cannot be forgotten this winter

7 December 2020

7 December 2020

This year, an estimated 6.7 million Syrians displaced within the country have faced airstrikes, a pandemic, and skyrocketing food prices - and as winter arrives, bringing freezing temperatures and flooding, Catholic charity CAFOD spoke to Syrian aid workers who are warning that many do not have the means to survive. 

Aid workers operating in Syrian camps are calling for greater action as border restrictions, a lack of resources, sky-rocketing inflation and COVID-19 leave many struggling for survival this winter.

“Winter brings extremely cold weather and extreme rain. The ground turns to mud and then there is flooding. People die in the floods,” explained Mustafa, 28, an aid worker in a camp in Syria. 

Mustafa told CAFOD that he knows of three families who died because of the cold last winter and fears this year will be much worse.

“My main concern is the children,” continued Mustafa. “Hundreds will die from cold if they don’t have enough fuel and warm clothes. Many more may get frostbite and have limbs amputated.”

His fears are not unfounded.

According to the most recent REACH findings, 74 per cent of people in Syria reported that winter items are unaffordable. Many are struggling to even afford basic food items: according to the UN, the price of an average food basket – including items like grains, bread, and oil - has increased 247 per cent since October last year.

Hombeline Dulière, Emergency Programme Manager for the Syria Crisis at UK aid agency CAFOD, said:

“This winter could be a death sentence for many families who have already lived through unimaginable trauma.”

There are multiple issues that families are dealing with, including the spread of coronavirus, said Hombeline: "Coronavirus cases have exploded in the informal camps, people have limited access to healthcare, as well as fearing being stigmatised if they seek advice or treatment. People are extremely vulnerable."

In March next year, the Syria conflict enters a grim anniversary of a decade of war. 2020 has seen some of the worst violence since the start of the conflict. Earlier this year, military operations in Syria displaced nearly a million people. ​And today, over 11 million people across Syria need humanitarian assistance.

“The words ‘camp’ or ‘tent’ doesn’t describe how Syrian’s are living,” continued Mustafa. “People are living under the sky. ‘Tent’ is just a figure of speech that cannot capture the unbelievable challenges people are facing every day.”

Many charities are now shifting funding to projects to help provide winter clothes, fuel, and shelter – in addition to helping the country respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hombeline concluded: "Aid workers are doing an incredible job, working tirelessly to provide winter clothes, fuel, and shelter, in addition to responding to the coronavirus pandemic. However, with no end in sight to this conflict, Syrians need our support and resources more than ever to survive. We cannot let Syria become a forgotten crisis.”

Find out more about CAFOD’s work in Syria at


For further information, photos, and interviews with spokespeople, please contact: Elouise Hobbs,, Mobile: +44 (0)7954 077426, Or, CAFOD’s 24-hour media hotline on +44 (0)7919 301 429  

  • CAFOD’s partners in Lebanon published the report Trapped between Syria and Lebanon in October 2020. It includes statistics and case studies of Syrians refugees living in the country.

  • CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and part of Caritas International. We reach out to people living in poverty with practical help, whatever their religion or culture. Help us build a world where no one is beyond reach of the love and care they need.