While the world went into overdrive over the recent attack in Paris, let us not forget the plight of Syrian children who are enduring the hardest period of the year as the worst winter storm for decades sweeps accross the region.
Though Syrians have braved three previous winters in conflict, conditions are much worse this year as this winter is expected to be the roughest. Heavy snow, high winds, and freezing rain are proving deadly for a small but rising number of Syrians, especially the children. The temperatures which have plunged to ten below zero are already prompting to deaths among children in several areas in the country. The number of child deaths is feared to rise considering the hundreds of thousands of children residing in provisional camps throughout Syria without fuel or heating.
The latest report indicates that more than 7.6million people inside the country, have been forced to leave their homes since the conflict began in 2011. They are now live either in temporary tents or in makeshift squatter areas built of huddled woods and ridged metals. These people also face shortages of medical equipment, foods, clothes, and blankets.
With power cut off by the government and no source of heating available, the most susceptible groups - children and the elderly - are the hardest hit by the bitterly cold temperatures.
At the same time, it is reported that heating fuel has become much more difficult to obtain in some parts of Syria. Meanwhile, the fuel prices have increased five fold in the past few months. Fuel cost 7 Syrian pounds (3 cents) a liter just before the crisis began and now costs around 32 pounds (17 cents). Although this is still much cheaper than gas in neighboring states, many Syrians have fewer to spend as prices of foods increase with rising transport expense.
Due to the strong winter storm, major roads and highways are also now blocked with snow, hampering distribution trucks and mobile medical units from reaching some territories, including those severely affected ones.
The situation is equally horrendous to the displaced Syrians in overwhelmed neighboring countries as the harshest winter also sweeps across other parts of the Middle East including Lebanon and Jordan, where many Syrian refugees are concentrated. Since its outset in March 2011, the Syrian crisis has resulted in over nine millions people being displaced. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by the UN refugee agency UNHCR, Syrians have now outweighed Afghans as the largest refugee population that UNHCR helps. It is predicted that a significant portion of these numbers are under the age of 18.
UNHCR reports that around 55 per cent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are living in unfavorable shelter. These refugees live in an extremely disparaging condition, mostly in weak tents, which can be flooded by the coming of heavy rain or collapsed by the coming of heavy snow.
It was reported that at least three children have died due to bitterly cold weather and a week-long storm in Lebanon, while this week three Syrians - among them children - attempting to flee to Lebanon were caught in a heavy storm and died from exposure.
Furthermore, it is reported that many Syrian children have lost members of their family and close relatives. This is likely to aggravate the circumstance as they have nowhere to go and no one to seek protection from.
This situation is exacerbated by the fact that many aid organisations such as UNHCR are undergoing a funding crisis, which has forced many of them to restrict their winterization assistances and to retrench and concentrate on most susceptible victims, such as the children.
It can no longer be ignored now that Syria's future generations are paying heavily for a catastrophe they did not create, one that is placing an obstacle to their present and future. These children are crying for help and it remains uncertain whether anyone is listening.
The world must understand that the future of these young generations is as crucial as world peace and stability, even if the consequence of inertia will take longer to be seen and felt. The humanitarian crisis in Syria is unquestionably real. These children need genuine, real, and serious efforts by the entire world community to end the rapid surge of the death toll, as well as the growing number of homeless, hungry, and displaced children.
While world leaders were gathering this week in Paris to commemorate the assassination of staff and police at the headquarters of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the innocent children in Syria also deserve the world's attention and support. Not addressing their dire needs properly will only result in more adversity and fuel anger that are in no one's best interests.