Approximately 40 Ohio University students have been displaced after a multiple structure fire occurred early Sunday morning along Union Street in uptown Athens. The fire began around 4:10 a.m. on Sunday, November 16 and was not entirely extinguished until 3:00 p.m. During this time, the flames spread to a total of five businesses, three of which house student rentals on their upper levels.
I realize what is most important is the health and safety of those affected. While neither major injuries nor fatalities were sustained, I cannot help but think about all that was lost. Not only were their homes taken away, but everything inside of it such as personal items and necessities. Thankfully the Division of Student Affairs and University staff members are working to ensure that affected students’ immediate housing, academic and other needs are met through the remainder of fall semester.
This situation had me thinking about how due to conflict many people in the Middle East have been displaced and are without homes. For example, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) over seven million Iraqi and Syrian children caught up in conflict face a harsh winter, this is about 1.5 million more than last year.
When I think about the Middle East, the first thing that comes to mind is the arid, desert climate. For some reason I had never even thought of a winter season in the Middle East; however, it does exist.
With the winter season approaching cold winds, freezing rain, and frigid temperatures infringe upon those in conflict-torn parts of the Middle East. Like the Division of Student Affairs collecting donations to those displaced by the fire in Athens, UNICEF and partners have begun distributing warm clothes and other winter items to ensure good health to many of the children at risk.
UNICEF is working to assist these children, but because of a shortage in funds not all can be helped. In Syria 400,000 internally displaced children are in need, but only 217,600 winter kilts have been purchased for distribution in four priority areas. Because of the ongoing fighting, access to many areas remains limited or impossible. A similar situation exists in Iraq. UNICEF is distributing 223,000 winter kilts in Kurdish areas hosting some 500,000 children displaced by fighting over the last few months.
Although many donations are being given, UNICEF may not be able to provide for all who are in need. Here is a place where people can donate to Syrian Refugees and other affected populations in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Egypt: UNICEF