Three ways Australian donors helped refugees during the northern winter

Life as a refugee is never easy, however in the winter months, cold to freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls make life even more difficult. Refugee families living in temporary shelters across Europe and the Middle East living are vulnerable to the elements and performing basic tasks such as fetching water and food becomes extremely difficult.

Ensuring refugees families are equipped to survive the northern winter is a critical priority for UNHCR — early planning and preparation are essential to prevent millions of refugees from being exposed to freezing temperatures.

This work is only possible with support. UNHCR ran a global appeal to protect refugees in Europe and the Middle East from bitter winter temperatures. Australia for UNHCR’s donors responded to the call. Here are three ways that we helped support refugees during winter.

1. By supplying winter aid kits

UNHCR’s ‘winterisation’ kits contain the personal essentials for warding off the cold; sleeping bags, thermal blankets, socks, warm clothing and footwear. Delivered to families with other core relief items including plastic sheeting to weatherproof tents, floor mats, stoves and kerosene, these winter aid kits are an invaluable help to refugees facing a bitter winter ahead.

These kits were distributed to more than 505,700 Iraqis displaced within their country. UNHCR also supplied more than 13,000 Syrian refugees living in Iraq with plastic sheets, thermal blankets and fuel for heating.

Vital winter aid was also distributed by UNHCR to people forced to flee their homes in Ukraine. The city of Luhansk had been cut off from aid for months until, with the help of its donors, UNHCR was able to send a convoy of nine trucks delivering 10,000 blankets as well as materials to help families insulate and repair their damaged homes. Throughout Ukraine UNHCR helped 57,300 people prepare for winter.

2. By weatherproofing and insulating shelters

For months more than a million refugees have been on the move through Greece, the western Balkans and Central Europe. UNHCR and its partners have responded to this growing humanitarian crisis, working quickly to address the winter needs of people in transit. UNHCR insulated shelters and sanitation facilities to ensure that families had access to warm, dry accommodation to rest at night and during the day while waiting at borders. UNHCR also provided vital winter aid packages including sleeping bags, warm clothing and raincoats to keep refugees warm and dry while on the move.

In Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, UNHCR weatherproofed and insulated tents using tent liners, foam boards and floor mats. Makeshift shelters were reinforced with plywood and timber to help them withstand the winter storms. UNHCR also installed drainage systems to minimise the risk of flooding when the snow thawed. This support, on top of the provision of blankets, stoves, fuel and warm clothing, helped more than 12,000 refugee families cope through winter.

3. By providing cash assistance to help refugees through the winter

In Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, UNHCR distributed cash assistance to refugees so they could buy essential winter items like fuel for heating and warm clothing. UNHCR identified families who would be most vulnerable to the elements, including children and the elderly and provided them with assistance to stock up on winter clothing, blankets, fuel and more.

“With the winter assistance, my husband bought some fuel for the stove and I bought some warm clothes for my five children.”
Watfa, Syrian mother living in Lebanon.

Cash assistance is an incredibly effective form of aid which allows heads of household, including refugee mothers such as Watfa, to supply their families with the items they need most to survive the winter.


Thank you to everyone who supported refugees across Europe and the Middle East during winter.

Follow UNHCR’s life saving humanitarian work on Facebook and Twitter, or visit Australia for UNHCR’s website at www.unrefugees.org.au

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