5 Reasons why displaced families need your help this winter

We urgently need your support to help families survive winter.


© UNHCR/Julian Busch

For many forcibly displaced people, freezing winter weather is a threat as dangerous as the conflict that forced refugee families to flee their homes. In countries like Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, displaced families are living in bomb-damaged, unheated homes, or flimsy makeshift shelters. They have little or no protection from the icy winds and torrential rain that’s on its way.

1. Cold weather can kill

Abdul Jalil* and his son Mortaza outside their small house in Sabzi, Bamyan province. The region is the highest in Afghanistan, and one of the coldest. Last winter, his children were constantly sick and he was unable to heat the house. He fears that his family may soon be evicted as they cannot pay their rent © UNHCR/Julian Busch

Every degree that temperatures fall below zero increases the risk of vulnerable people contracting deadly respiratory conditions like pneumonia and tuberculosis. In Ukraine, seasonal temperatures regularly fall as low as -20 C, while parts of Afghanistan fell to -21 C last winter.

2. Food prices are rising

Widow and mother of six, Sara, at her home in Bamsary valley, Bamyan district. Her husband died when she was 2 months pregnant.  The family received UNHCR winter assistance and rely on charitable help. © UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

Across the globe, rising food prices could make this one of the hardest winters ever for refugee families. The cost of rice, a staple across the world, went up by 9.8% from July to August 2023, reaching a 15 year high – while sugar rose by 34% from 2022-23. These price hikes make it almost impossible for some refugee families to afford basic foods with which to cook warm meals for winter.

3. In winter, household costs increase

Tamara, 65, and her granddaughter Milania, 6, live in Bobrovytsya city in Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine. Their home was damaged during hostilities earlier this year. UNHCR has repaired the house through its shelter programme to ensure the family is warm and safe during the winter. © UNHCR/Victoria Andrievska

As in the UK, the cost of heating over the winter months places a huge extra burden on families who are already struggling – and the global price of fuel has continued to rise throughout 2023. Families also need winter coats and shoes to protect them from the cold, and many will need to insulate or repair their shelters to keep out the elements.

 4. UNHCR’s work is critically underfunded

Zahra*, with her young daughter in front of her house in Sabzi, Bamyan province. A year and a half ago, her husband died of an illness. Since then, she has been weaving carpets to survive. She lives in a small hut with her five children. But her business is not going well, she says. In three months, she can barely earn 45-55USD. She is barely able to buy enough food for her children. © UNHCR/Julian Busch


With record numbers of displaced people worldwide, the underfunding of UNHCR’s work is reaching alarming levels. After responding to the COVID-19 and Ukraine emergencies, there were 35 crises declared in 2022, and many more this year in countries like Sudan and Libya. We urgently need your support today to help us reach the most vulnerable displaced families this winter.

5. Winter survival kits save lives

Refugees receiving mattresses, and blankets part of UNHCR’s winter assistance © UNHCR/Houssam Hariri

When temperatures fall, the items in a Winter Survival kit can be lifesaving. Mattresses and blankets can keep people warm through the long, bitterly cold winter nights. Winter coats and shoes mean children can go outside without risking their health. A payment for fuel could mean survival for a family with no other means to heat their shelter this winter.



Share This