“Temperatures here are scary [during winter]”, says Hassan, a Syrian refugee father in Lebanon. After being forced to flee his hometown during the Syrian crisis, he is one of the 339,473 Syrian refugees currently residing in Bekaa Valley, which experienced its worst snowstorm in decades earlier this year and is known for its acutely brutal winters. In preparation for this, Hassan has spent his days working in the fields to provide for his family – to little avail, “This year, the situation here in Lebanon has gotten worse. Whether for the Lebanese or the Syrians, it’s the same. Our life has become so hard”.
The economic woes he is referring to – food insecurity, fuel shortages, humanitarian aid reduction, and a currency collapse – have sent the price of food, fuel, and other basic needs soaring. This is particularly felt during winter, when temporary shelters tend to face damage from heavy rain and snowfall. Subsequently, thousands of refugee families like Hassan’s have come to depend on UNHCR’s winter cash assistance, the effects of which are felt almost immediately: “It’s true that I have a job, but it’s not enough to secure my children’s future, shelter, rent, and daily expenses. I depend on my work, as well as the UNHCR cash assistance for us to be able to survive”. When asked to elaborate, Hassan said it enables him to afford basic needs like food as well as medical care in the event one of his children fall sick.
Whether in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq or Egypt, Hassan’s predicament is shared by 3.4 million refugees and IDPs who are in need of essential winter items. In response, UNHCR has initiated a series of programmes for its winter assistance plan. They mostly comprise of seasonal cash assistance that would help families acquire heaters, fuel, and winter clothes. Other programmes include shelter weatherproofing and distribution of winter core relief items. Every year, Zakat and Sadaqah donations play a crucial role in providing this winter assistance to the most vulnerable refugee and internally displaced families. It is the generosity of our donors that contribute to making Hassan’s wishes come true, who goes to sleep every night “[praying] that the next day will be better than the day before”.