Winter closes in for Syria’s refugees

The UN’s refugee agency is calling on donors and individuals to dig deep and help raise funds for the 15 million displaced in the region as winter approaches

UNHCR’s winter appeal, launched yesterday, aims to protect the most vulnerable families in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Syria from winter storms, which last year gave rise to heavy snowfall and winds exceeding 110kph.

More than half of the 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in garages, abandoned buildings and makeshift tents. The refugee agency estimates some 195,000 Syrian families will suffer this winter.

“Our number one priority is to ensure that the most vulnerable families across Lebanon are well equipped to weather the heavy storms,” said Mireille Girard, UNHCR’s representative in Lebanon. “The reality is that there remains a widening gap between humanitarian needs and available funding. We need all the support we can get.”

UNHCR has set up an online donation platform to help individuals gift money to the campaign. The UN agency is giving four consecutive months worth of winter grants to around 800,000 refugees in Lebanon, starting this November, which will allow refugees to stagger purchases such as fuel for heating.

UNHCR plans to distribute aid to some 500,000 at risk Lebanese and Syrian families, to include weather proofing kits, insulation kits, stoves, heavy blankets, winter clothes and fuel for schools.

With the Syria crisis in its fifth year, more refugee families than ever face severe challenges from the harsh winter climate. The number of Syrian refugees in the Middle East and North Africa now exceeds 4.2 million, with Lebanon playing host to around 1 million.

“Our goal is to bring the public in the region closer to the people affected, by offering individuals a simple way to reach out to and support persons in need,” said Amin Awad, UNHCR director of the bureau for the Middle East and North Africa. “We count on the strong support of every person who is able to help to make this goal a reality.”