Impending Winter Threatens the Survival of Syrian Refugees

Our teams work with refugees who are struggling to cope with seasonal changes
Refugees like these women face tough times ahead as winter approaches. Photo: ACF-Lebanon, L. Jiminez
Refugees like these women face tough times ahead as winter approaches. Photo: ACF-Lebanon, L. Jiminez

As the crisis in Syria continues to escalate, the already staggering number of refugees is still climbing. It is now estimated that there are more than four million internally displaced people in Syria, and more than two million people who have fled to neighboring countries. To meet the needs of this growing population, Action Against Hunger is expanding its programs in the region.

Cold weather creates more challenges

The situation for these millions of refugees will soon worsen as winter arrives in the Middle East. As Paolo Lubrano, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Lebanon, explains: 

“The arrival of winter snow and rain will make Syrian refugees more vulnerable, as most of them are living in tents made of wood, plastic, and blankets in an area where constant flooding occurs. They are not protected.”

– Paolo Lubrano, Country Director, Action Against Hunger, Lebanon

Winter also means the seasonal end of agriculture, which will reduce job opportunities for displaced Syrians struggling to find work. In order to make what little money they can, some Syrian families who were able to flee with their livestock or other belongings are now forced to sell them to make ends meet.  

The arrival of winter will not only affect displaced Syrians, it will also impact host populations in neighboring countries whose resources are already being stretched thin by the influx of refugees. For example, Lebanon has already taken in over 1.5 million Syrian refugees—a huge number of people for a country whose own population is only four million. Hospitals and schools in Lebanon are now overcrowded, and competition for jobs is growing as agricultural opportunities decline. Many are worried that the seasonal change will lead to an increase in tensions between the Lebanese and Syrian communities.

A long road to recovery

Even after the winter months are over, there will still be obstacles to overcome for both refugee and host populations. Jean Raphäel Poitou, Action Against Hunger’s Head of Programs in the Middle East, predicts that it may take years to restore normalcy for people affected by this massive crisis. 

“The situation is becoming more dramatic, and is a humanitarian crisis of immense size that will last for years.”

– Jean Raphäel Poitou, Head of Programs, Action Against Hunger, Middle East

In Lebanon alone, our teams are assisting some 45,000 refugees in the Bekaa Valley and southern Lebanon, providing emergency food supplies, hygiene kits, and sanitation solutions to displaced families in nearly 90 different settlements. Though our teams are working tirelessly, there is still much work to be done to prepare for the oncoming cold weather. With your support, we can help more people through the winter months and for years to come.


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