In the Bleak Midwinter

Winter is here. The bitter cold and wet snow is here to stay until spring. It is the time for warm blankets, fuzzy socks, and hot tea. That is, unless you live in poverty. For those without a home, the winter is often bleak.  Most of us find it easy to stay warm – we cover ourselves in blankets, fasten our jackets, and turn up the heater. We also find it easy to eat a warm meal – we put the soup on the stove, turn on the oven, and switch on the electric kettle. But for those living in poverty, such commonplace things are a luxury.

The civil war in Syria is reaching its fifth year, with no sign of a ceasefire. Thousands of Syrians languish in refugee camps, most of which are wholly inadequate for winter weather conditions. Almost half of the homes visited by a UN agency had no heating, a quarter had unreliable electricity, and 20 per cent had no functioning toilet. A recent snowstorm compounded these miserable conditions.  Snow and rain fell as temperatures plummeted.  Worst of all, aid is slow to come to these people. Syria is largely old news these days, with terror attacks and ISIS brutality filling the headlines. Foreign aid is a notoriously difficult endeavor, particularly in times of war. But in the case of Syria, the money is simply running out. The UN recently issued a statement asking for more funds, as an estimated 10,000 families are left unassisted this winter, just in the nation of Jordan alone. The “insufficient support” from the international community is a major issue confronting humanitarian aid agencies.

I watch the snow fall from my window, swirling through the gray winter sky.