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Heavy snowfall hits northern Syria’s displaced communities, Flash Update #1 (as of 19 January 2022)

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Heavy snowfall affected north-west Syria on 18 January, damaging displacement sites, tents and people’s belongings.
According to preliminary reports, 22 sites in Aleppo Governorate (mainly Afrin and Azaz districts) and nine sites in Idleb Governorate (mainly Harim district) were affected.

As of 19 January, 362 tents were reported damaged and 2,124 individuals (429 families) affected. Abraz Camp in Ma’btali subdistrict in Afrin was badly affected and families were evacuated to safer shelter, including the camp’s administrative building, a nearby school and Abraz village.

A child has been reportedly killed in the Qastal Miqdad area due to the collapse of a tent roof from the accumulation of snow. The mother is in intensive care. The cold weather resulted in a severe drop in body temperature in two children in camps in Bulbul area. Both are receiving hospital treatment in Afrin.

The most pressing needs are reopening of the roads for uninterrupted access to the sites, moving the affected persons to safe places, securing means for heating, replacing destroyed tents, providing ready-to-eat meals and winter clothes for children and families.

The road is closed to the Abraz camp in Ma’btali subdistrict in Afrin (where 15 tents were affected), as well as various others in Raju and Ma’btali sub-districts leading to informal camps. The Afrin – Raju road, Sharan – Bulbul road (leading to Bulbul camps), Azaz – Afrin road, Afrin – Ghazawiyet Afrin road, Deir Ballut – Atma road and Mbtali – Raju road are open.

Road closures prevent assessment teams reaching the sites and the delivery of assistance, however as soon as the situation permits, partners will conduct assessments in affected locations to identify critical needs and provide targeted assistance. A health partner (UOSSM) was reported to have suspended the work of its vaccination team in Afrin countryside due to road closure.

Afrin district in northern Aleppo is the most affected district. The main concern is the need to regularly clean the accumulated snow from over the tents in order to avoid the collapse. So far, a small number of tents were reported to have been damaged or in need of replacing.

Winterization programmes are continuing to target the most vulnerable. Based on weather forecasts, the snowfall is expected to continue. The urgent response might have to be extended into the coming weeks. One major concern is the potential floods in sites when the snow melts. The assessment on the ground is continuing and humanitarian partners are looking into the possibility of reprogramming some ongoing winter responses to target the affected sites.

Humanitarian partners are working with local agencies (Bahar Organisation and IDA) in Afrin to deploy their mobile teams and clinics, particularly to Raju, Ma’abatli and Sheikh Al Hadid sub-districts. The Afrin Health Directorate has been contacted to deploy ambulances to those sub-districts. Health partners and the Afrin Health Directorate are requested to share contact information of the ambulance services in Afrin with the camp managers.

According to the initial reports, no educational facilities have been damaged and they are functioning without any issues.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.