“This winter, UNHCR’s supplementary cash assistance assumed a new urgency, and for some refugees, it represented a literal winter lifeline.”
Andrew Harper, UNHCR Representative, Jordan
For the vast majority of refugees in Jordan, those living outside of camps, the winter months represent yet another crisis in their struggle to survive. With most Syrian refugees in urban areas now living under the poverty line and half living in households with no heating, the bitterly cold conditions stretch their capacity to afford even a degree of warmth.
The 2014-2015 winter was no exception. In January and February, two severe snow storms hit the country with high winds, freezing rain, hail and heavy snow forcing the closure of schools and roads. Certain locations, such as Karak, Tafilah and Ajloun, were cut off for days due to icy roads and inclement weather.
In the midst of this, 520,000 Syrian refugees braved the cold in poorly insulated rooms, in basements or in makeshift shelters. A few weeks before they had learnt that they would no longer be receiving free health care and that precious food assistance would be slashed. With the majority of Syrian refugees having no access to legal employment, they were with the least amount of means going into this harsh winter.
This made the large-scale winterization efforts by UNHCR in Jordan and its partners all the more critical this year. Since the inception of winterization support in 2012, UNHCR had not mounted such a fast and broad effort in order to ensure that refugees would not be harmed by the cold.
A recent survey conducted by UNHCR on the impact of its 2014-2015 winter cash assistance programme shows the important difference it made.