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Winter to Affect Millions as COVID-19 Spreads


Winter to Affect Millions as COVID-19 Spreads

25 December 2020 Also available in:

Winter is arriving for millions of people uprooted by conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East. Living under sub-zero weather in makeshift tents and unfinished buildings with little protection against powerful snowstorms and icy floods is challenging enough. As the COVID-19 pandemic tears through communities across the globe, stretching local healthcare systems to their limits, for refugees living in cramped conditions with limited hygiene facilities and cold conditions, this could be the most difficult and life-threatening winter ever.

Of the 10 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, UNHCR estimates that 3.8 million people are in need of urgent winter assistance. As the pandemic restrictions wipe out most economic opportunities, many families are without work and in deep poverty. Meanwhile, continued conflicts and insecurity in areas like northwest Syria are forcing more people out of their homes and into the cold.

That’s why UNHCR is stepping in. We are running a life-saving aid programme this winter, focusing on three main areas of support:


Standing with her four daughters, Haifa Ahmad Nasif (top right) is grateful for the core relief items, including gas cylinders and heaters,
distributed by UHHCR at the Zaatari camp in Jordan.

Winter Dilemma: Food, Heater or Warm Clothes?

As the weather grows more bitter by the day, Haifa – a 42-year-old Syrian refugee who fled to Jordan with her four daughters after her husband was killed – fears she will be forced to make that impossible choice. “I would sell our food to buy them(my daughters) clothes,” she says.

Parents should never have to decide whether their children should be hungry or cold. Yet, as temperatures in the Jordanian desert plunge below 0ºC at night, refugees living in tents or improvised shelters can’t survive for long. Fortunately for Haifa, her caravan shields her family from the very worst of the weather. Better than a tent? Yes. Good enough? Hardly.

That’s why UNHCR wants refugees like Haifa to get the support they need to make it through the winter. For some, it may be cash assistance to help them buy exactly what their families need, whether it’s fuel, food, medicine or a bus ride to school. For others, it means getting winter supplies like heaters, thermal blankets, jackets, gloves and boots.

But only your kindness can help mothers like Haifa turn on the heating, wrap their daughters in thick coats or cook them a hot meal.

Please help motheres like Haifa



The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.