FUNDING GAPS THREATEN TO LEAVE NEARLY 1 MILLION CHILDREN OUT IN THE COLD IN MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

With cold and rainy weather sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa, nearly 1 million children affected by crises in the region risk being left out in the cold.

UNICEF is facing a US$33 million funding gap - two thirds of the total appeal - for lifesaving winter assistance for children including warm clothes, blankets and winter health, water, sanitation and hygiene supplies.

"Years of conflict, displacement and unemployment have reduced families' financial resources to almost nothing. Staying warm has simply become unaffordable," said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"With little nutritious food and healthcare, children have grown weak, becoming prone to hypothermia and dangerous respiratory diseases. Without help to protect them from the freezing weather, these children are likely to face dire consequences."

Falling temperatures will bring even further hardship to thousands of families who are living in extremely basic conditions especially in camps or crowded shelters with little protection from the freezing cold. Last winter, two children died from the cold as they were attempting to flee the war in Syria to Lebanon in search of safety.

Overall this winter, UNICEF aims to reach 1.3 million children in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, and the State of Palestine with warm clothes; thermal blankets; water, sanitation, health and hygiene support; and cash assistance for families. UNICEF's winter response complements existing programmes in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, protection and education and aims to keep vulnerable children across the region warm, healthy and in school this winter.

Source: National News Agency