Once a keen student, 13-year-old Lamia* now spends her days doing difficult tasks. Her family fled from Syria to Lebanon last year, seeking refuge in the Bekaa Valley, and arrived with very few belongings.

Now living in an informal camp without coats, winter boots, floor coverings or heaters, they are dangerously ill-prepared for the freezing temperatures and heavy rains to come.

“I have to go out early in the morning to get water, it’s so cold and it’s raining. There is not even a heater I can run back to warm me up,” says Lamia.

The winter can be deadly. Displaced families across Syria and in neighbouring regions are preparing to spend bitterly cold nights out in the open or in substandard housing.

They fear their children will get sick, their homes will flood or their roofs will collapse. For some, it will be the fifth or sixth time they have experienced this hardship.

As one of the few aid agencies left on the ground in Syria, UNHCR teams across the region are helping refugee families prepare for the coming winter. Staff are distributing plastic sheeting to insulate tents, waterproof mats, heating stoves, high thermal blankets, warm clothes and winter boots.

These are basic items that could prove life-saving once the winter storms arrive and snow begins to fall.

Learn more about UNHCR’s Winter Survival Fund >>

Even before the fighting erupted on the Syrian-Turkish border last month, UNHCR was aiming to expand its winterisation response to reach 280,000 more people than last year – a total of 3.88 million in the region.

Now, that number has risen even higher. Hundreds of thousands of families have been newly displaced in the past month alone. Dropping temperatures and rains in both Syria and Iraq are adding to their suffering.

UNHCR delivers lifesaving aid to Syrian refugees to keep them warm this winter

With your help, UNHCR plans to reach families displaced across Syria and neighbouring regions with vital winter supplies. © UNHCR/A. Chnkdji

Brett Moore, an Australian who heads up UNHCR’s Shelter and Settlements section, says we need to reach these families with essential supplies now, to keep them safe and warm.

“Last winter, hypothermia was responsible for the deaths of many Syrian and Iraqi refugees, including babies and children,” says Brett.

“Many perished while fleeing or died of cold in besieged enclaves, urban slums and makeshift dwellings.”

To prevent further tragedy this year, we need to reach more people than ever with weatherproof shelter, insulation, blankets, heating stoves, fuel, warm clothing and shoes.”

“This will improve the survival of refugees throughout the extremes of winter – but we need to prepare now.”

A tent in Lebanon floods after a winter storm

Living in makeshift tents, many families will be exposed to freezing conditions and flooding this winter. © UNHCR/D. Ibarra Sanchez

Funded by the gifts of compassionate people like you, this massive operation runs until March, providing millions of vulnerable people with life-saving winter assistance.

Now, we have even more people in our care — families who have nowhere else to turn as they leave behind the world they know and face an uncertain future. 

As temperatures begin to fall, your support is more crucial than ever.

*Name changed for protection reasons. 

Please give the gift of warmth and hope
to a refugee family this Christmas


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