10 Nov 2014

NRC - is Preparing For Winter

Winter is about to hit many countries with large populations of refugees and internally displaced people. Cold temperatures can be catastrophic for people who have lost everything, and NRC is working hard to be ready for winter. “We are working to make displaced people better equipped to face the cold winter months. It is a matter of life and death,” says Director of Field Operations in NRC, Magnhild Vasset.

Last year, winter was very cold in countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, where millions of people are displaced because of the Syrian Civil War. NRC now fears the consequences of another cold winter on displaced families.

“Many left everything behind when they were forced to flee. They do not have warm clothes, blankets, heaters or insulated shelters. For these families low temperatures constitute a major health risk. It is vital that we get emergency aid out to people in need. We must do all we can to help,” says Vasset.

Preparations for winter underway

NRC is already well underway with preparations in countries facing a cold winter. As displaced families often live in simple tents and caravans, one of the most important measures is to insulate shelters so that they give better protection against the cold. Distribution of heaters, fuel, warm clothes and blankets will also help vulnerable families through the winter in countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Afghanistan.
Iraq is one of the countries where many need help to endure cold winter days. In the past year alone, 1.9 million people have been displaced due to the armed conflict in the country. In addition, Iraq also host several hundred thousand refugees from neighbouring Syria. The needs for winter preparation are substantial.

“In Iraq, we have seen a massive displacement crisis this year. Many families are very vulnerable in the face of a cold winter, so we are making a big efforts to prepare. NRC will repair shelters and distribute kerosene heaters, blankets, tarpaulin and other necessary equipment,” says Magnhild Vasset.

More funds needed to keep people warm
n Afghanistan, winter preparedness has also been the focus of NRC operations:
“In Afghanistan, where temperatures routinely drop to -9 °C (15 °F) in some areas during winter, we have prepared extensively for the colder winter months by pre-positioning stocks of emergency winter supplies, particularly in areas that may become inaccessible once heavy snowfall occurs. While we welcome the release of $1 million from the UNOCHA Emergency fund to help support vulnerable Afghans during the country's bitterly cold months, we remain concerned that overall funding is insufficient to meet the deep needs of the poorest, including in the refugee and IDP communities,” says Danielle Moylan, Protection and Advocacy Adviser for NRC in Afghanistan.

Jordan is home to more than 600,000 Syrian refugees, and many need assistance before winter sets in. Carlo Gherardi, shelter project manager for NRC Jordan, says winter preparations are well underway

“NRC Jordan has begun distributing vouchers in Azraq camp, which will allow residents to purchase items such as winter clothes and blankets in the supermarket in the camp. We are also installing cement-flooring in shelters and distributing heaters to help people in the camp keep warm this winter. In host communities we are distributing unconditional cash cards to refugees that will help them cover additional winter costs, says Gherardi.

According to Gherardi, additional funds are vital to ensure that the cold does not get too hard this winter:
“Funding is key to support NRC to help households meet their basic needs this winter and much more could be done to keep Syrian refugees in Jordan warm and safe,” he adds.
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