Syrian refugee children play with snow outside their makeshift shelter at Qab Elias Syrian refugee camp in the Bekaa valley, eastern Lebanon | Photo: EPA/Wael Hamzeh
Syrian refugee children play with snow outside their makeshift shelter at Qab Elias Syrian refugee camp in the Bekaa valley, eastern Lebanon | Photo: EPA/Wael Hamzeh

The UN refugee agency UNHCR in Italy has called for donations to help refugees and displaced people from Afghanistan and Syria who 'will have to face snow, rain, freezes and extreme temperatures' this winter.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR in Italy launched its campaign "Make a Kind Gesture" (Italian original: "Fai un gesto gentile") on Wednesday (December 1). Their goal is to raise funds to help displaced families from Afghanistan and Syria through the winter.

Chiara Cardoletti, UNHCR Representative for Italy, the Holy See and San Marino, called on people to donate to their organization. She said UNHCR needed funds for "three life-saving actions: distribution of financial aid for vulnerable families; supply of materials for the thermal insulation of tents and emergency accommodation and interventions to improve rainwater drainage systems in fields and informal settlements; and the distribution of essential accessories such as blankets, winter clothes, shoes and plastic sheets."

Afghan, Syrian refugees facing winter cold

UNHCR said it is working in Afghanistan and Syria, as well as Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan in "a race against time and against the freeze" to reach at least 3.3 million people who are in particularly fragile situations and at risk of not surviving the winter.

"A white Christmas does not mean celebration, warmth, serenity and abundance for everyone," said UNHCR in a statement. "For Syrian and Afghan refugees and displaced people, this will be another very long winter in which they will have to face snow, rain, freezes and extreme temperatures."

UNHCR said they were very worried about the situation of Afghan refugees and internally displaced people. There are over 3.5 million internally displaced people in Afghanistan, nearly 700,000 of whom had to flee their homes between January and October of this year, according to the UN agency. 80% of them are women and children. In the winter, temperatures in the country can drop to 12 degrees below zero, UNHCR said.

More than 13 million Syrians displaced

The decade-long conflict in Syria that has forced more than 13 million people to flee, according to UNHCR statistics. About 6.7 million are internally displaced and 6.6 million are refugees in other countries. Many of these people are living in camps and makeshift accommodation -- making them particularly vulnerable during harsh winter weather.

UNHCR said that it was committed to assisting over 840,000 people in Syria with essential aid for survival in freezing temperatures. They also said that over 15,000 refugees would receive direct financial assistance from them.

 

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