As millions of people around the world celebrated over the weekend, greeting the New Year with excitement and hope, refugee families across the MENA region remained paralyzed by fear. For them, there is little to celebrate – especially those living in temporary shelters – amid a brutal winter season that has tested their limits through lack of warm clothing, inadequate meals, and rising fuel costs. This is particularly the case for refugee parents, who are facing another 365 days where each morning, they question whether their children will live to see the next sunrise.
Aisha, a Syrian refugee mother, was no stranger to such questions. After fleeing with her children from her hometown of Homs, she was internally displaced in Aleppo and Idlib before finally landing in northern Lebanon. Resigned to living in an informal settlement, Aisha spent her days tending to her three girls and one boy without the support of her husband, who went missing in Syria. To make matters worse, her wages were cut off after her employer closed his greenhouse business, leaving her with virtually no income in a part of the country that is notorious for its brutal winters. Aisha was a beneficiary of cash assistance from UNHCR, which made a difference for her during Lebanon’s protracted economic crisis, “the assistance enables me to be self-dependent. Without the assistance, how can I live?”.
Aisha’s sentiments serve to underscore the importance of life-saving aid not just for her kids, but for the 3.4 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt – especially during winter. In response to the escalating needs, UNHCR has initiated a series of programmes for its winter assistance plan, comprising primarily of seasonal cash assistance that would help families, including female-headed households like Aisha’s, to acquire heaters, fuel, and winter clothes. Other programmes include shelter weatherproofing and distribution of winter core relief items. You may consider marking the New Year by dedicating part of your Zakat or Sadaqah towards helping families acquire these essential needs.