Winter and the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Challenging Combination

With five mouths to feed, the last couple of months have been particularly tough for Huda, a 36-year-old Syrian refugee and single mother. Living in one of the poorest neighborhoods of East Amman, the six family members share a dilapidated two room apartment where rain regularly floods through the ceiling 

“I struggle. I cry a lot. Where can I stay, what am I supposed to do when all our things are drowned with water,” Huda says.  

Due to the difficulties the family face, her eldest daughter Rahaf, 16, stopped going to school in order to be able to help her mother around the house and her son Muheeb dropped out because of the psychological difficulties he continues to experience after what he saw in Syria. Before the COVID-19 pandemic he used to attend a local community center to get support and informal education, but this has also now ceased.  

For the last nine months, Huda and her family have received UNHCR cash assistance but due to the COVID-19 pandemic this has barely been enough to cover their basic needs. In the summer, they were forced to move to a new house after they were evicted by their previous landlord when they didn’t have enough money to pay the rent. 

Unfortunately, this situation is all too common. In December, over a fifth of UNHCR’s legal counselling was in cases where refugees faced eviction. 

Huda shows the contents of her empty fridge

Huda says the stress of the COVID-19 crisis has taken its toll. “Some days we can’t even afford to buy bread. My son has started collecting tin cans from the streets which he could sell to recycling. We often can’t afford vegetables. There are many days when my children sleep without food.” 

As a result, UNHCR’s winter cash assistance this year has been needed more than ever. In total 93,393 of the most vulnerable refugee families in Jordan were determined eligible for winter assistance. Due to a lack of funding, however, only 55,251 families – 60 percent – have currently received money.  

Huda’s father, EzzEldin, 75, receives an SMS informing him that he will receive winter assistance this year

Thankfully, Huda and her family were among the lucky ones. In December, they received a total of 275 Jordanian Dinar to help them cover their needs. After paying off some debts and a new gas heater, Huda was able to also make a proper meal for her family. “When I received the assistance, it felt like a holiday.