As winter bites in Afghanistan and the Middle East, UNHCR is racing to help the most vulnerable displaced people cope with harsh conditions.

In Lebanon, the crippling economic crisis has sent the price of basics soaring and led to shortages of food, fuel and medicine. Sixty per cent of Syrian families in Lebanon are also living in dangerous, overcrowded or substandard accommodation, and the situation for Lebanese families is similarly desperate.

As part of its response, UNHCR and its partners are working to rehabilitate sub-standard homes to help withstand the coldest months of the year. The scheme supports landlords to fix roofs and walls to prevent leaks, repair plumbing and electrical systems. 

Aliyah is a mother of four, and has had to cope with the loss of her sole source of income as a result of Lebanon’s economic crisis. She has felt powerless as the stable life she once knew crumbled around her – literally, in the case of her dilapidated home.

A medical condition affecting her circulation recently resulted in Aliyah having one leg amputated. Confined to a wheelchair, her mobility was severely restricted in the house.

However, thanks to the building improvements made by UNHCR, as well as accessibility improvements, Aaliyah can move around her home and be more independent.

“After the rehabilitation of my house, everything is different, everything is better now,” Aliyah says.

Portrait of Aliyah. Her house is being renovated by UNHCR and its partners as part of a shelter assistance program to help local and refugee families. © UNHCR/Houssam Hariri

Aliyah faced access constraints in her home in Lebanon, after her leg was amputated. She meets visitors from UNHCR and its partner to discuss renovation of the building. 
© UNHCR/Houssam Hariri

Some 67,000 Lebanese and refugee families have benefitted from UNHCR’s shelter support in 2020 and 2021. This assistance also includes weatherproofing shelters in informal settlements, distributing shelter kits to reinforce homes against the elements; and providing rental subsidies to families at risk of eviction.

In Afghanistan where families have already endured so much, winter is expected to bring further hardships. Temperatures are expected to drop to -25⁰C, and many displaced families lack proper shelter – a primary requirement if they are to survive the bitter cold.

“Without critical in-kind and cash support, communities will be exposed to extreme shocks including loss of life,” warned UNHCR’s representative in Afghanistan, Caroline van Buren.

“Urgent support is needed to help the most vulnerable Afghans survive during the winter months and keep their families safe and warm.”

Thanks to the generosity of Australian supporters who have donated to our Winter Survival Fund, UNHCR can provide thousands of vulnerable families with essential items including shelter insulation kits, heaters, warm blankets and other supplies.

See also: Cold winter months add to suffering for refugees and displaced people

UNHCR also provides cash assistance during winter to help refugees and displaced people. This life-saving assistance means they can buy gas for heating, warm clothes for their children and maintain their shelters.

Further support is urgently needed for UNHCR to continue delivering lifesaving aid this winter as vulnerable families living in Afghanistan and the Middle East head into the coldest weeks of the season.

Your support will help families stay warm this winter.

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A homeless man warms himself by a fire in Kabul. Nearly 50,000 Afghans have come to Kabul from other parts of the country, having been displaced by fighting. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

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