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Scrounging for Firewood, Aleppo Prepares for Winter

With the first September rainstorms, Syrians have begun to prepare for winter.

Written by Mohammed al-Khatieb / Aleppo Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Two winters have gone by since the revolution began, meaning residents now have experience in dealing with the harsh cold of the coming months.

Last winter, the U.N. and other agencies struggled to outfit thousands of Syrian refugees with the heated trailers, tents and blankets they would need to make it through the season. This year, there are more refugees and more substantial shortages in aid. Even less reaches cities inside the country, like Aleppo.

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Electricity is the least expensive and cleanest form of power to produce heat, with fuel a close second choice. But most neighborhoods in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo now get only a few hours of electricity every day. The power grid is constantly failing because of damage caused by clashes and shelling.

Other neighborhoods haven’t had power in months, since maintenance personnel haven’t been able to reach the areas where the damaged cables are located. In a city of 2.5 million, only three functioning power stations remain. The other nine have been shut down due to shelling.

But diesel remains the top choice for Aleppans looking to keep warm. It’s a fraught topic: one of the main points of contention and causes of instability just before the revolution began was a government-mandated doubling of the price of fuel.

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Today, there are no gas stations in Aleppo. Instead, fuel merchants wait along the street, selling locally treated gas derivatives in plastic soda bottles.

This fuel oil, treated using primitive methods, sometimes emits poisonous gases. But for most of Aleppo’s residents, it’s a necessity: the price of “real” gas has increased tenfold since the beginning of the war.

Most residents have reverted to buying firewood, something they’ve never done before in what was, before the conflict, a highly modern city. The poorest gather wood twigs from the streets and private gardens.

A park located in the Masaken Hanano neighborhood is now almost empty after residents cut down more than 100 trees last winter. One of the garden keepers wondered if any trees would remain intact by the end of the coming winter.

Ten-year-old Ahmad wakes up every morning to gather sticks with his brother to use over the next few months. “We seize the opportunity to gather the twigs before anyone else beats us to it,” he said. “Winter is coming. We don’t have any other solution to survive the cold winter. My father was killed in the war and we don’t have the money to buy wood or fuel, which will certainly be as expensive as last year.”

This article was translated from Arabic by Naziha Baassiri.

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