Millions of refugees at risk in the Middle East as winter funds dwindle

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is becoming increasingly concerned over the funding situation for refugees and other displaced families in the Middle East, where currently only a quarter of families are likely to receive adequate support to prepare for the approaching winter.

There are nearly 15 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people scattered across the region. We estimate that as many as four million are in the extreme risk category and need timely and substantial help to properly prepare for the forthcoming winter. Of these only one in four are likely to get the assistance they need.

The US$245 million Regional Winter Assistance Plan for 2017/2018 covers winter needs of Syrian and Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. The plan, implemented with governments and partners, is currently only 26 per cent funded.

For many Syrian refugees this will be the seventh consecutive winter in displacement. Enduring the extreme cold, snow and heavy rains is has become an annual hardship and survival battle for millions of forcibly displaced living in tents and makeshift shelters in locations such as the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, in tents or in destroyed homes in northern Iraq and in Syria.

The needs of refugees and the internally displaced are significantly higher during winter. Without proper help, many refugee families end up being pushed further into debt and come under increased pressure to resort to desperate steps to try to make ends meet. Women and children are especially affected.

Throughout this autumn UNHCR plans to provide cash assistance, distribute winter items and invest in preparation, insulation and repairs of shelters and improving drainage in the camps. In southern Syria for example, the winter assistance plan would support internally displaced people living in makeshift tented settlements with basic aid items including high thermal blankets, plastic tarpaulin, and winter clothing.

In Lebanon the plan aims to assist Syrian refugees living below the poverty line with a five-month winter assistance package from November 2017 to March 2018.

During the same period all Syrian refugees living in camps in Jordan will be provided with cash for gas and shelter repairs.

In Iraq, UNHCR would provide nearly a million Iraqi displaced people with winter assistance both in camps and urban areas targeting newly displaced people and returnees from Ninewa, Salah al-Din and Anbar governorates.

More than 50 per cent of the assistance package is scheduled to be delivered in cash which would allow refugees and the internally displaced to address their priorities and meet urgent needs.

 

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