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Syria flooding destroys schools, refugee camps

A Syrian man reacts as water floods tents at a camp for the internally displaced near the town of Kafr Lusin in the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, by the border with Turkey, on Jan. 19, 2021. (AFP)
A Syrian man reacts as water floods tents at a camp for the internally displaced near the town of Kafr Lusin in the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, by the border with Turkey, on Jan. 19, 2021. (AFP)
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03 Feb 2021 12:02:21 GMT9
03 Feb 2021 12:02:21 GMT9
  • Charity: We are forced to choose between using tents for housing or education

Charlie Peters

LONDON: A week of heavy flooding in northwest Syria has destroyed some 120 schools and swept away tents in refugee camps.

Over 21,000 children and more than 980 education personnel have been affected by the floods, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which said its current assessment falls short of the total damage caused because many areas remain inaccessible. 

With more than 2 million children of school age in northwest Syria — roughly half of them internally displaced due to the war — the education system in the region is severely strained.

“The most basic thing needed in northwest Syria is the political will to help children recover from the conflict,” Amjad Yamin, the advocacy and campaigns director for Save the Children, told Arab News.

“There’s the easy way of funding education more — which is distinctly underfunded, with 75 percent of what’s being requested not being met — but there’s also a need to put funding toward infrastructure. There just aren’t enough buildings in northwest Syria for the people there,” he said. 

“We’re regularly left trying to make a choice between moving families living in buildings into tents so they can host schools, or hosting schools in tents, neither of which is a solution. Unless there’s some serious investment in infrastructure, we’re going to continue to see the same cycle every winter,” he added.

“More humanitarian access is needed in northwest Syria. Four million people rely on it, but the UN Security Council only allows one border crossing for humanitarian aid. We need to remove these restrictions — which are blocking a lot of what charities can do — and we need to improve funding for access to services.”

Heavy rains in the Afrin province of northwest Syria have swept away dozens of tents in recent days.

Mark Cutts, the UN deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said last week: “I am deeply concerned about the devastating impact that the recent floods have had on displaced people living in camps in northwest Syria.”

He added: “Just last year, 1 million people in this area were displaced by fighting. Many of them are still living under olive trees on roadsides, as there are simply not enough camps for all these people. The international response has not matched the scale of the crisis.”

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