The severe winter storms ‘Huda’ and ‘Jana’ swept across the Middle East in January and February 2015, exposing millions of refugees to freezing temperatures, and bringing heavy snow, rainfall and high winds across the region. UNHCR responded immediately to keep vulnerable refugees and internally displaced people warm and protected from the harsh conditions. UNHCR and its partners replaced damaged tents, provided repair kits, delivered emergency supplies and offered alternative temporary shelter for those forced to abandon their homes due to the snow storms. Over 2.8 vulnerable people in the region including 1.1 million Syrian refugees, 1.4 million Syrian IDPs, 16,000 Iraqi refugees and 360,000 Iraqi IDPs were provided assistance which also included cash to help people purchase required items, and the provision of fuel, stoves, blankets and weatherproofing kits.
UNHCR teams worked throughout the winter months, providing fuel, stoves, blankets and weatherproofing kits to keep Syrian and Iraqi families in camps, and urban areas, warm and protected from the harsh conditions. Where possible, cash-based interventions played an important role in the response, enabling refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to pay for rent, heating and additional winter clothes. Cash-based support is often a more dignified way of assisting affected populations, as it empowers people to determine their own needs and the best way of meeting them. The needs and scale of the response were enormous. UNHCR and its partners targeted the most vulnerable refugees and IDPs who have the highest risk in relation to winter, using the following categories:
- Families and individuals residing in tents, including in refugee and IDP camps or in makeshift or sub-standard accommodation in informal settlements;
- Individuals living in geographic areas subject to severe winter weather, such as high-altitude or subject to significant levels of precipitation in terms of snow, rain and sleet;
- Families who, despite having habitable cover the costs of heating fuel.