As displaced families across the Middle East and North Africa braced for brutal winter conditions, we asked for your help to provide them with life-saving winter assistance.

Without adequate protection from freezing temperatures, torrential rain and snowstorms, already vulnerable families face significant risks to their health and wellbeing.

Our Winter Survival Fund, which launched last November, raised $1.26 million to help these families stay safe and warm.

With your generous support, UNHCR delivered winter assistance to 4 million refugees. This included core relief items such as thermal blankets, plastic sheets and winter clothes, shelter insulation and seasonal cash assistance to help families meet urgent needs during the winter months.

Displaced by the conflict in Syria, Mariam’s family receives UNHCR’s monthly cash aid and extra winter support.

Before fleeing her home in Raqqah, Syria, her husband was killed in front of her eyes. She gathered her six children and ran, seeking shelter in Lebanon.

She has already endured so much because of the war, and her situation continues to be hard, weighing heavily on her shoulders and those of her children.

Living in a makeshift shelter, she takes care of her six children alone. Extreme winter conditions significantly affect her family’s health and wellbeing.

“My tent doesn’t receive a lot of sunlight, so I have to keep the door or windows open even in winter to reduce the humidity because my son su­ffers from asthma,” Mariam explained.  

Ahdla, a Syrian refugee, hangs clothes up at the informal settlement camp of Doures. @UNHCR/ Diego Ibarra Sanchez

“We use blankets for warmth. I put as many clothes on my children as I can to keep them warm. Since we came here, God knows that I couldn’t buy any clothes for my children … it’s all given by kind people.”

Children receive the UNHCR distribution in Akkar. @UNHCR

 

Mariam, like thousands of refugee widows in her situation, survives on aid and in-kind donations, especially in winter.

She has tried to support her family by working in agriculture, but after only one day, she came home to find her youngest son had been badly burnt by hot tea. They are too small to be left alone.

Donations are the difference between life and death for those who are most vulnerable.

“What matters is my children’s health … because for food, we can handle eating little, but when you have a sick child, you have no other choice but to secure the money, there is no time for patience.

“Sometimes, my asthmatic son suff­ers in the middle of the night, and I have to take him to the health centre. The taxi alone costs 10,000LL [$8.50], and the treatment costs me no less than 80 or 90 thousand [$70-$80]. In winter, this can happen every week. The cash assistance I receive removes a huge burden from my shoulders.”

 

Responding to the blasts that severely damaged neighbourhoods in Beirut, UNHCR mobilised US$35 million for its emergency response to the hardest-hit and most vulnerable households.

This package included US$32.5 million for shelter interventions and US$2.5 million for protection activities during the winter months.

UNHCR and partners also provided legal aid to recover lost documents and psychological support to help people heal from the trauma, as well as emergency cash assistance.

Over 6,500 shelter kits were provided to meet urgent needs, helping to restore a degree of privacy, dignity and safety for over 20,000 people still residing in the affected areas. UNHCR’s overall support reached 100,000 affected people.

“UNHCR is grateful for the generous contributions received for its Winterisation program, allowing vulnerable Syrian and Iraqi Internationally Displaced People and refugees to be prepared for the harsh winter season,” Houssam Chahine, UNHCR’s Chief of Private Sector Partnerships in the MENA region said.

“A special tribute goes out to our amazing community of individual donors, who share the responsibility with us in protecting families. Without you, the work could never have been done.”

A family receives the UNHCR distribution in Akkar. @UNHCR

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