When Saif entered Jordan as a refugee in mid-2014, he arrived at the border on the back of a motorcycle, strapped to the rider to avoid falling off. He was carried across on a stretcher, unable to walk or even stand due to injuries he sustained during the previous two years of imprisonment inside Syria.

“When I came to Jordan, I didn’t have a single penny on me,” explains Saif. “I was wearing only underwear, and covered in a bedsheet. My physical condition was very bad.”

Once inside Jordan, Saif joined his elderly mother Mona, who had fled their home in Damascus shortly after his arrest. She also suffered from ill health having survived throat cancer, and both mother and son required medication they struggled to afford.

It is a situation all too familiar to 5.65 million Syrian refugees across the region after more than seven years of conflict.

Over 85% of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in extreme poverty, struggling to find work opportunities and afford even the most basic necessities such as shelter, food and healthcare.

Fifty-three-year-old Saif Al Zobi is confined to his home in Amman and relies on cash assistance from UNHCR for his medication. He is among the 85 per cent of Syrian refugees in Jordan who live below the poverty line. © UNHCR/A. Sakkab

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October acknowledges the efforts and struggles of people living in poverty, as well as the fundamental connection between extreme poverty and the violation of basic human rights.

In Jordan, many Syrian refugees are forced to resort to desperate tactics such child labour and early marriage just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Brutal winter conditions across the Middle East from December to February heighten the vulnerability of these families, who have no option but to live in tents or flimsy shelters in refugee settlements, or in abandoned, unheated buildings in urban areas.

The elderly, young children, people with disabilities and those with serious medical conditions are particularly at risk as temperatures plummet below zero.

To help impoverished refugees prepare for the freezing weather, from November UNHCR will begin providing them with winter assistance to help with additional costs such as fuel, blankets, warm clothing and medical expenses.

UNHCR’s winter response plan aims to help 1.3 million vulnerable refugees and 1.35 million internally displaced people across the region. However, critical funding shortfalls mean that some of the poorest, most at-risk Syrians will miss out on vital protection and assistance. To date, the Syria response is only 33 per cent funded.

A Syrian family displaced from their home in east Aleppo try to keep themselves warm around a fire. © UNHCR/H. Marouf

Please send life-saving assistance to vulnerable Syrian families
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