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Winter cash assistance brings life-saving gift of warmth to Syrian family

From left, Syrian refugee Um 33, her daughters Maha, 8, Jodi, 12, husband Abu , 35, and daughter Jana, 5, sit in the only heated room of the home they rent in Zarqa, Zarqa Governorate, Jordan.

(From left) Syrian refugee Um Waleed 33, her daughters Maha, 8, Jodi, 12, husband Abu, 35, and daughter Jana, 5, sit in the only heated room of the home they rent in Zarqa, Jordan. © UNHCR/David Azia

By Lauren La Rose

ZARQA, JORDAN — For Abu and Um Waleed, the gift of winter cash assistance has brought warmth into their home—in more ways than one.

“Immense happiness. It’s an unbelievable feeling. It really helped us a lot. We couldn’t sleep from the happiness,” said Um Waleed, 33, seated with her husband, Abu 35, with their three daughters—Jodi, 12, Maha, 8 and Jana, 5, nestled between them in their apartment in Zarqa, Jordan.

“It helped us pay a huge part of the accumulated debt on our rent. We also got gas heaters and winter essentials. So, it’s happiness. We were also able to make the kids happy and buy them some of the things they needed.”

Winter cash assistance distributed by UNHCR to refugees—particularly those living in urban centres—provides them with the funds needed to buy essential items like fuel to heat their homes during the coldest months of the year.

The financial support offers a much needed boost to a family that was forced to leave everything as conflict raged in their homeland. Wearing only the clothes on their backs, the family left under the cover of darkness as airstrikes roared overhead, recalled Abu Waleed.

“If there was a safe place in Syria we would stay in Syria. But we just left. We had to leave for the safety of our kids,” said Abu Waleed of his homeland, which is entering its eighth year mired in deadly civil war.

UNHCR in Jordan has provided winter assistance to over 245,000 refugees in urban areas, and more than 24,000 families residing in the Azraq and Zaatari camps.

The vast majority of Syrian refugees—78.7 per cent—live in urban areas and in poverty. More than 80 per cent live below the poverty line. One in five refugees registered with UNHCR in Jordan rely on cash assistance to help with the costs of essential supplies, such as food and shelter.

Since arriving in Jordan in November of 2013, the family has shuffled through three different homes, seeking to carve out a new life within the country—a life fraught with incredible struggles.

While the winter cash assistance has helped alleviate some of the financial burden, they are on the waiting list to receive funds on a more regular basis. Even the mere prospect of a steadier stream of cash assistance brings hope to the couple.

“It literally means everything. It’s going to take a big load off of my shoulders which is rent,” said Abu. “If that happens for me, I will be able to cover the rent and, from the money I earn from work, bring food to my children.”

The couple needs to look no further than their own children to see what a tremendous impact the provision of cash has already made, from the cozy new sweater worn by eldest daughter Jodi to the heat radiating in their space.

“As they came to the house, one of our daughters said: ‘Today is the best day ever,’” said Um, “because we feel warm today.’”