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The Week That Was: Out in the Cold

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As the nation's weather men and women garner larger audiences than usual this weekend with the population gripped by forecasts of snow and ice, this week saw a harsh reminder of the impact of cold weather for those targeted by civil war.

Give it a few days, and no doubt the caterwauling will start as trains get cancelled and roads blocked around the country. For Syria's refugees, transport delays are the least of their problems.

I can't be the only one moved this week by the photo of a young Syrian child sleeping awkwardly out on the snow, wrapped only in a carpet, which spun round the internet after being posted on Facebook.

The shot, taken in a refugee camp in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, is one of those heart-wrenching photos that probably only hints at the grim reality of the day-to-day for the estimated 600,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the country since violence broke out in March 2011.

According to those working in the camps, of which there are now many strung across Syria's borders, most refugees arrive with bare feet and only the most basic of belongings. When harsh weather conditions are added to the mix, tensions run high and the results can be violent. In Jordan, where storms battered tents this week and flooded the area, some aid workers were allegedly attacked as panic broke out around food stations.

If tensions are high in the camps, they run with as much fever in the country the refugees have fled from, as was so evident this week when president Assad appeared inside the Damascus Opera House to deliver his political solution to the war.

Cheered and mobbed inside by supporters, the reaction elsewhere was damning. William Hague described the live televised speech as full of "empty promises" that would "fool no-one". The spokesperson for the Syrian National Coalition, Walid Bunni, meanwhile said that Assad "only wants a solution that keeps him at the helm of control".

Away from the bluster of the politicians, as has been the case throughout the Arab Spring, the internet and the citizen journalism it spawns is providing the quickest means of putting real faces to the humanitarian crisis. Alongside the photo of the child sleeping in the snow, also posted on Facebook this week (and later uploaded to YouTube) was a video shot in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, which hinted at far deeper issues than any amount of UN press releases can explain.

Khaled al-Hariri, who is interviewed in the short video, was an amputee who activists say died before the video could be shared.

Visibly distressed in the film, he talks about the difficulty of getting medical care in the UN-run camp, but how he only wishes for the health of his brother and those around them to improve.

The filmmaker who captured his comments, Abushakraa Horanee, called him "the martyr of negligence and cold".

Something to remember before we consider complaining about our own cold offices and homes.

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