UNHCR and Twitter UK join forces with Neil Gaiman to launch the Winter Emergency Appeal for refugees

Public support will help UNHCR deliver winter relief to refugees like 11 year old Omar, including blankets, warm clothing, thermal lining for tents and stoves to help families cook hot meals and dry wet clothes.
© UNHCR/Haidar Darwish

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has partnered with Twitter UK and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador author Neil Gaiman to launch UNHCR’s Winter Emergency Appeal for refugees.

The UNHCR appeal will raise funds to support displaced families in camps and settlements across the Middle East who face bitterly cold conditions as winter arrives, marked by sub-zero temperatures, flooding and snowstorms.

Relief will include blankets, warm clothing, thermal insulation for shelters and emergency grants to help refugees buy essentials like medicine and fuel.

To launch the appeal and call for public solidarity, Neil Gaiman is encouraging his fans and followers to Tweet him their reflections about ‘warmth and winter,’ and to make a donation to help fund winter relief.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Neil Gaiman speaks with Syrian refugee and volunteer nurse, Ayman, about life in Jordan's Azraq refugee camp where winter relief will help families survive the bitter cold months ahead.   © UNHCR/Jordi Matas

Inspired by these Tweets, Neil Gaiman will write an original short story to be knitted into a giant, three metre long UK Solidarity Scarf, created by digital knitting machine company, Kniterate.  The scarf will also feature traditional Syrian floral designs, created by women in Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, where relief from this appeal will help families to survive the winter.

“Gale force winter storms tear through camps and settlements, terrifying the families who shelter from the elements. Even keeping your shoes and socks dry takes an effort that can be a living nightmare. Please donate today - every one of us can take action that will help save lives and give a little warmth to someone who needs it.” – Neil Gaiman

“Without this support my children would not be alive,” explained Syrian mother Khitam. Since fleeing their family home in Syria, Khitam and her children have lived in an unfinished building near Beirut, Lebanon. It’s damp and windy, with holes in the walls and one toilet for several families. Winter relief helped her access medicine when her children fell ill.

Syrian refugees remove snow from their shelter rooftops at an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.  © UNHCR/A. McConnell

“Following the launch of this campaign earlier in the year, we are delighted to bring this initiative to the UK to help raise awareness of UNHCR's cause and urge people to donate through a creative use of our service,” said Katy Minshall, Head of Public Policy and Philanthropy at Twitter UK.

Neil Gaiman will discuss his short story and the UK Solidarity Scarf during a live video Twitter Q&A on Tuesday 10th December.

The scarf will then travel to the United Nations Global Refugee Forum in Geneva (17-18 December), where heads of State, ministers and business leaders will be gathering to seek new solutions to addressing global forced displacement. The UK Scarf will join solidarity scarves created by global appeals in the Middle East, North America and Brazil. 


  • Call UK freephone 0800 029 3883
  • Donate online: www.unhcr.org/belowzero
  • Text WARMTH to 70025 to donate £10 (supporters are charged £10 donation plus their standard network rate for a text).


  • £30 can buy fleece blankets for a family of five
  • £57 can cover an emergency winter payment (to help buy fuel, medicine, winter clothing)
  • £75 can buy a winter survival kit (blanket, sleeping mat, warm jacket, stove and fuel)