More than 14 million people have been displaced from their homes in Syria and Iraq, with nearly 5.9 million seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. UNHCR estimates that 3.4 million vulnerable people (Syrian and Iraqi IDPs and refugees) need urgent help to properly prepare for the up-coming winter.
USD 168 million is needed to ensure that life-saving winterization assistance is in place before freezing temperatures grip the region, exposing tens of thousands of families. For many, this will be the eighth consecutive winter in displacement.
The majority of the planned intervention will be in the form of cash assistance and core winter items. Significant investment is also planned in insulating and repairing shelters and improving drainage in camps. UNHCR winterization programme covers the period from September 2018 to March 2019.
UNHCR’s winterization strategy focuses on three broad areas of intervention:
Provision of seasonal cash assistance for vulnerable families to meet their additional needs during the winter months.
Provision of core relief items specific to winter such as high thermal blankets, plastic sheets, heaters and gas cylinders, and winter clothes.
Winterization of shelter including shelter weather-proofing and repairs, improvements to drainage systems and other infrastructure in camps and informal settlements.
As part of the Whole of Syria approach, UNHCR aims to provide winter assistance to 1.35 million Syrian internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees and host communities (270,000 families) through the distribution of core relief items (CRIs) such as high thermal blankets, plastic sheeting, sleeping bags, winter jackets, and winter clothing kits beginning in September. Assistance will be prioritized for newly displaced vulnerable families (including people displaced multiple times), people living in hard-to-reach areas and in sub-standard shelters, spontaneous and selforganized returnees, as well as people in newly accessible locations who have not been assisted in the past. This includes several locations in Dara’a, Rural Damascus, Hama, Deir-Ez-Zour, Ar-Raqqa and Idlib governorates, depending on access for delivery of aid and assistance. Monitoring of the programme will be conducted by UNHCR and partners during the distribution of the items.
In addition, UNHCR plans to support some 27,500 refugees and asylum-seekers from Iraq and other countries (8,400 families) with unconditional one-off cash assistance of USD 54 in November to cover additional expenses during winter, such as for fuel, electricity, blankets and clothing. Cash transfers will be made to refugees through ATM cards and to asylum-seekers through cheques to be collected at UNHCR office and cashed at a partner bank.
For cross-border assistance from Gaziantep (Turkey), UNHCR aims to provide winterized CRI kits for 100,000 Syrian IDPs (20,000 families), targeting locations in most need and beneficiaries identified by agreed vulnerability criteria as determined by a Shelter/Non-Food Items (NFI) needs assessment in north-west Syria. The distribution is planned to start in October. UNHCR will deploy a commercial third party company for on-site and post-distribution monitoring, in addition to partner post-distribution monitoring.
Consequences of underfunding
Lack of funds will result in the significant reduction of winter assistance for the most vulnerable 1.35 million IDPs, exposing people in need to harsh weather conditions without assistance. This can lead to negative coping mechanisms, loss of dignity, as well as health concerns.
Under-funding will lead to all refugee and asylum-seeker families being unable to meet basic needs during the winter months and a further deterioration of their living conditions. If the response is only partially funded, UNHCR will have to prioritize further among the population and will only be able to target refugees under more severe vulnerability categories, while asylum-seekers will not be able to benefit from assistance.