BEIRUT -- As winter draws close, Mercy Corps, a US-headquartered nonprofit, is actively supporting the displaced population in the camps of northern and northwestern Syria, with the aim of alleviating their suffering.
The assistance provides a lifeline for many who have been displaced from their homes by the Syrian regime and Russian bombardment but is not sufficient to meet their many needs, camp residents told Al-Mashareq.
In late November, Mercy Corps began providing humanitarian aid to camp residents in the form of monthly vouchers for a period of nine months.
A family of four is allocated a monthly voucher of $50, and a family of five to seven is allocated $70, while a family of seven or more receives $90 per month.
Pregnant women and women with small babies receive an additional $20 a month for a six-month period.
Each family is granted $150 as part of the winter programme.
Among the camps that have received aid from Mercy Corps is al-Tah, situated on a mountainside in northern Idlib province. The camp hosts 300 families, or a total of 1,750 people.
"My family and I have been living in al-Tah camp for three years, in conditions that are nothing short of tragic," mother of five Hana Mohammed al-Youssef Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.
"The food vouchers provided to us by the Mercy Corps organisation for a period of nine months have eased the burden, and allow me to buy the food I need from stores in the city of Maarat Misrin," she said.
But the family has other winter needs the vouchers do not cover, she said, such as necessary repairs to their tent, a stove for heating, rugs, blankets and warm clothes for the children.
Al-Tah resident Haitham al-Awad al-Ghajar, a father of five, thanked Mercy Corps for standing by his side during the ordeal of his displacement.
"The organisation does not forget us; it continues to stand by us," he said, adding that the $70 monthly voucher "helps me buy basic foods in limited quantities, due to the high prices".
"But it does not cover all our needs because we are a large family," he added.
In addition to food, al-Ghajar explained, his family needs rugs to help ward off the cold in their tent, and the old, worn-out tarpaulin that covers the tent needs to be replaced in order to keep the tent from being saturated with rainwater.
IDPs live in destitution
Al-Tah camp director Abdul Salam Youssef told Al-Mashareq that each year, Mercy Corps provides camp residents with humanitarian aid that helps to alleviate their food needs.
All the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are in great need, he said, and are "unable to survive without this assistance, after having lost their livelihoods and property as a result of the war" in Syria and its far-reaching consequences.
He explained that al-Tah camp, like all those nearby, "lacks the basic necessities of life, such as medicine, schools, sanitation networks and safe accommodation".
This makes the IDPs' situation "miserable", he said, and their suffering increases at the beginning of each winter, because the tents, after four years of use, "have become dilapidated, and they do not protect against the cold of winter at all".
While Mercy Corps vouchers address an important problem, Youssef said, "there is still the need for heating materials such as mazout (fuel oil) or firewood, after the price of a tonne of mazout rose to more than $250".
The camp also needs drinking water projects, as well as a free or subsidised bread to help feed the children, he added, especially given the camp's remote location -- in an uninhabited area with a harsh environment.
There are approximately 1,633 displacement camps in northwestern Syria housing more than one million IDPs.
There also are many informal camps in the villages of western Deir Ezzor province, in the areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and they have been inhabited for more than four years by thousands of IDPs.