UN Campaign Aims to Protect Displaced Families from Winter Cold

The United Nations refugee agency announced Friday it has launched a global funding campaign to help people forcibly displaced by war and persecution survive the bitterly cold winter ahead.

The UNHCR’s campaign aims to raise $700 million this year to help families who are living under perilous conditions in Ukraine, Afghanistan, and across the Middle East, so they can cope with freezing temperatures.

UNHCR spokeswoman Olga Sarrado said the many people who have been forced to flee their homes will be facing an extremely harsh winter. She said it will be difficult for them to provide for their daily needs given the steep rise in the cost of food, fuel, and other basic commodities. She added they also will struggle with the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and threats posed by the climate crisis.

“For many of the world’s forcibly displaced, this coming winter will be far more challenging than in recent years,” said Sarrado. “Many displaced families will have no option but to choose between food and warmth as they struggle to heat their shelters, source warm clothing, and cook hot meals.”

The UNHCR is suffering from a serious funding shortfall that has forced it to scale back some life-saving programs around the world. The agency cannot count on the usual international donors to provide for its needs. Therefore, the global winter funding campaign is reaching out to everyone for support.

Sarrado noted the campaign is appealing to governments, public and private corporations, and individuals to help keep refugees safe and warm this winter.

“We see already night temperatures dropping two to four degrees in all these regions, but this is just the beginning,” said Sarrado. “So support is needed to be able to start delivering cash assistance, thermal blankets, warm clothing, repairing the houses as soon as possible before the winter becomes even harsher.

The UNHCR reports some 7 million Ukrainians are displaced inside the country, and 7.6 million have fled as refugees across Europe. UNHCR teams are providing supplies to the displaced Ukrainians and helping reinforce homes and shelters to keep out the cold, said Sarrado.

In Afghanistan, she said the UNHCR plans to support 50,500 families, or about 400,000 people, with cash assistance. She said aid workers are delivering essential items such as blankets, solar panels and winter insulation for tents to help displaced families survive the harsh winter months.

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