Mother wraps her daughter in a grey blanket from a winter assistance package

Syrian refugee Amira wraps a blanket around her three-year-old daughter Amani at their home in Lebanon. © UNHCR/Hannah Maule-ffinch

Amira and her family received life-saving winter assistance. Thousands more are in urgent need of the same.

As the temperatures plunge, the checklist of items needed to stay warm surges. But what if you couldn’t count on that bin stocked with scarves, toques and mittens? No woollen socks and sweaters? No snowsuit to bundle up your little one? No furnace or fireplace to heat your home?

Winter ushers in a season of uncertainty for many refugees who often lack the essentials so desperately needed to protect their families—especially children—during the coldest months of the year.

Before the war in Syria, Amira lived in Aleppo with her husband, Hamad, who worked in a clothing factory. Amira says they were able to provide themselves with everything they needed. That was no longer the reality when conflict uprooted the couple from their beloved home. A life of familiarity made way for an unpredictable future.

“If we didn’t have assistance from UNHCR… we would have lived a very difficult winter,”

Amira and Hamad relocated to Lebanon where they moved frequently, sometimes staying with relatives. They were often living in tents that offered an inadequate shield from the biting cold of winter.

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After the birth of their first child, Amani, they now had a daughter to consider.

UNHCR provided Amira and her family with wood and other materials to reinforce a shelter against Lebanon’s Bekka Valley snow and wind, as well as winter cash assistance to buy fuel, food and other essentials.

“If we didn’t have assistance from UNHCR… we would have lived a very difficult winter,” Amira says. “We couldn’t have warmed our shelter or even warmed Amani.”

Syrian refugee Amani stays warm in a winter assistance provided blanket in her home in Lebanon. © UNHCR/Maule-ffinch

UNHCR plans to provide winter assistance to more than four million Syrian and Iraqi internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.

Winter assistance comes in the form of cash payments and distribution of winter items, as well as key preventive measures, like insulating and repairing shelters.

The winter assistance plan for the Middle East and North Africa has only reached 26 percent of its funding target. The majority of country operations are severely underfunded. This could mean thousands of families won’t have the basic essentials to guard against the frigid conditions.

“I’m very proud of my house, and I always keep it clean and tidy,”

But it’s much more than just keeping warm. For refugees and displaced people forced from their homes, individuals like Amira once again have the chance to draw comfort and security in their new surroundings.

“I’m very proud of my house, and I always keep it clean and tidy,” Amira explains with a smile.

Finally, she feels what so many take for granted: a place to feel sheltered and protected, throughout the winter and beyond.

By Lauren La Rose

Originally published on 15 September 2018.

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