How You Can Help Refugees Stay Safe And Warm This Winter

International aid agencies are scrambling to meet refugees' needs worldwide -- but they're running low on resources.

For millions of migrants and refugees displaced in Europe and the Middle East, one of the most challenging times of year is approaching: winter.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees have traveled to Europe from Africa and the Middle East this year, hoping to find safety and shelter. Thousands are still on their way, but as some European states have shut down their borders and imposed entry limits, many people are now stranded en route, forced to wait and even sleep out in the open amid dropping temperatures, cold wind, sleet and rain.

Meanwhile, millions of refugees remain in the Middle East, having fled violence in their home countries of Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq. Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, more than 4 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries, and at least 7.6 million are displaced within Syria itself. While some refugees have been able to rent houses and apartments, many are living in refugee camps with minimal support.

Last year, temperatures fell to 5 degrees Fahrenheit in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, where the majority of some 371,000 refugees live in "substandard shelter," including makeshift settlements and collective housing, per United Nations reports. Several people, including children and babies, died from exposure last winter.

As international aid agencies and nonprofits scramble to meet refugees' needs worldwide, they're running low on resources. The U.N. Refugee Agency announced on Oct. 23 that it had launched winter aid programs to provide refugees in countries like Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon with food, blankets, clothes and shoes, but that it had not yet fully met its various funding targets.

You can help make a difference, in money or in kind. Here's what refugees around the world need as temperatures drop, whether they remain displaced in their home countries or are seeking asylum in others:

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
In January, The Washington Post reported that many refugees in a camp in Zahle, Lebanon, lived in flimsy tents prone to collapsing in winter rains and storms. Also in Europe, many migrants and refugees have been forced to wait outdoors -- in many cases, overnight -- for countries' borders to open.

You can donate to the U.N. Refugee Agency, which for $550 can provide an entire family living in Syria's neighboring countries with a tent to shield them from the wind and rain this winter. For $54, the International Rescue Committee will also give four families the materials they need to build temporary shelters in refugee camps around the world.
Winter Clothes And Shoes
Ilyas Akengin/AFP/Getty Images
In 2015, refugees -- particularly in the Middle East -- experienced a hot summer, and now they're facing a harsh winter. In many photos, people can be seen wearing inadequate clothing, wrapping themselves in blankets and even tying plastic bags around their shoes to avoid the wind and rain. The Guardian noted in Nov. that many people in the "Jungle" refugee camp in Calais, France, wore broken flip-flops or socks under flip-flops.

The International Rescue Committee and UNICEF are both selling winter clothes that can protect displaced children from the cold.
Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images
The Syrian People's Support Association, a Madrid-based nonprofit, is collecting homemade blankets from knitters and crocheters around the world to send to displaced Syrians before the harsh winter hits.

You can reach the organization on Facebook (the group includes English speakers). You can also donate to the International Rescue Committee, which for $84 can provide 15 blankets to people in refugee camps.
Space Blankets
Matej Divizna/Getty Images
Space blankets are light, low-volume coverings. Their thin, shiny material reflects heat energy, thereby reducing heat loss from the body through thermal radiation. Many refugees and migrants who arrive at Lesbos after their perilous journey across the Aegean Sea have been seen wearing them.

You can buy packs of 10 for under $10 on Amazon and send them to refugee agencies worldwide.
Water Purification Tablets
Mario Tama/Getty Images
In unsupervised refugee camps, clean drinking water can be hard to find. In early October, researchers working with the Doctors of the World group found both E. coli and Coliform bacteria in a piped water tap in a refugee camp in Calais, France. You can send water purification tablets, which help destroy waterborne diseases when dissolved in water, to camps via UNICEF.
Food Aid
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Many refugees in the Middle East skip meals to save money for basic needs, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported last week. Children risk physical and mental damage due to malnutrition, William Lambers, author of the book Ending World Hunger, noted in The Boston Globe this summer.

The U.N. World Food Program and Muslim Aid, which provide food aid to refugees worldwide, are accepting monetary donations. You can also send micronutrient powder, which helps prevent anemia, blindness and brain damage in children, to refugees via UNICEF's website.

Related on HuffPost:

Egyptian Billionaire Offers To Build Island For Refugees

Inspiring Reactions to The Migrant And Refugee Crisis

Popular in the Community