Syrian refugees face harsh winter in desperate conditions

Tue Dec 25, 2012 5:47am EST
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By Yara Bayoumy

BAB AL-SALAMEH, Syria (Reuters) - Huddled inside thin plastic tents in a makeshift camp after fleeing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's bombs thousands of refugees say they face a new enemy. "The cold is killing us," many of them say.

Having survived a conflict in which more than 40,000 people are estimated to have been killed, refugees at the Bab al-Salameh camp on the Syrian-Turkish border say the winter is now a bigger threat to them than the violence engulfing their country.

"The situation here is even worse than being at home," said Waad Orfali, a 27-year-old woman, dressed in a pink headscarf, velvet pink gown and slippers, as rain pounded the camp.

"At least in the village there was a doctor," said Orfali, who escaped from the northern village of Marea about two weeks ago after snipers and air strikes forced her and her family to relocate to the relative safety of the camp.

The flimsy tents scattered across the encampment offer scant relief to the thousands of men, women and children facing freezing weather and constant rain, and colder conditions are still to come.

Earlier this month, the United Nations refugee agency said more than half a million Syrian refugees are registered or waiting in other Middle Eastern countries, with about 3,000 new people seeking refugee status and assistance daily.

"I'm three months pregnant and I've been bleeding," said Orfali, who suffered from mouth sores. She said her husband suffered from kidney stones, but that neither had been able to receive medical care at the camp.

"At home there's no water or electricity and it's the same thing here," another woman chimed.   Continued...

A Syrian refugee woman holds her child in the refugee camp of Bab El Salama, between the Syrian town of Azaz and the Turkish town of Kilis, December 24, 2012. REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman