Volunteers deal with the effects of freezing temperature across the Middle East

Published: 11 January 2013 14:19 CET

By Raefah Makki

Several countries in the Middle East continue to experience severe winter weather that has so far caused casualties across the region and increased the suffering of Syrians fleeing violence to neighbouring countries.

Torrential rain for the past four days caused massive flooding in many areas and the snowfall paralyzed many parts of Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Syria; making access to people in need more difficult. Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies in the region have been working around the clock to respond to the different emerging humanitarian needs.

In Syria, the storm has aggravated the humanitarian needs as the electricity cuts, fuel shortages and the growing food insecurity continue. Thousands of people were forced to leave their homes seeking shelter from the cold in Damascus. Syrian Arab Red Crescent continues to provide essential relief to people trapped by both violence and extreme weather conditions.

In Lebanon, rescue and emergency teams from the Lebanese Red Cross have been working around the clock to help evacuate residents trapped by the snow, and to respond to storm-related accidents. Teams have helped in the evacuation of hundreds of residents trapped by the snow, providing first aid and transport to the people in blocked areas.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society provided assistance to 429 families affected by the weather conditions. 296 families (approximately 1,950 people) were provided with relief items, blankets, covers and plastic sheeting to enable them to cope with the weather conditions About 500 volunteers are assessing needs and distributing goods, and emergency medical services teams are providing first aid to many people, mainly in the northern parts of the West Bank, who have been injured due to floods and flood-related accidents.

A DREF fund of 86,975 Swiss Francs has been allocated from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the Palestinian Red Crescent Society response in reaching 5,000 people affected by the fierce weather conditions.

The regional disaster management unit is sharing constant updates with National Societies and their staff and volunteers in the field to ensure they are prepared for any changes in weather before they have a chance to impact on emergency activities.

Families inside Syria and in the neighbouring countries are struggling to cope without essential clothing, adequate shelter and heating. With its Revised Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is supporting the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and National Societies in the neighbouring countries to assist families to cope with winter conditions, particularly with additional mattresses, tarpaulins, blankets and hygiene kits.