UAE’s heart-warming drive for those battling the cold - GulfToday

UAE’s heart-warming drive for those battling the cold

Internally displaced children stand on snow near tents at a makeshift camp in Azaz, Syria. Reuters

Internally displaced children stand on snow near tents at a makeshift camp in Azaz, Syria. Reuters

Winter is the time when the cold really holds one in a vice-like grip. It particularly affects the homeless and the poor.

For the well-off and those who can afford warm beds, heaters or even a fireplace, handling the cold weather is a breeze.

But this does not hold true for the underprivileged. They live in dilapidated shanties, or even tarpaulins that serve poorly as a roof even as the chilly winds batter them. They have barely anything that remotely resembles a rug or a blanket, and virtually without any woollens, a problem that only compounds their poverty woes.

Now the coronavirus has only made things worse. More than half a billion people globally were pushed or sent further into extreme poverty last year as they paid for health costs out of their own pockets, with the COVID-19 pandemic expected to make things worse, the World Health Organization and the World Bank said.

If there is one segment of the population whose suffering sees no end, it is the refugees. Their plight is nerve-wracking, to say the least.

A report last year said families fleeing air strikes and advancing troops in Syria’s Idlib province are sleeping rough in streets and olive groves, and burning toxic bundles of rubbish to stay warm in the biting cold.

Storms which blanketed much of northwest Syria in snow have worsened the condition of the displaced. Shelter is scarce, with houses and tents already packed with dozens of people. Many who have become destitute have little money to buy fuel or heaters.

There are stories of babies and people dying as a result of cold weather and the inability to stay warm.

Another report, in a section of the Lebanese media, said an unofficial 20 to 30 per cent of the refugees in Lebanon live in camps concentrated in areas with extremely harsh winters—such as the Bekaa Valley and Akkar.

Syrian migrants in the Bekaa Valley camps and Akkar are now facing extraordinarily difficult conditions, due to the lack of heating equipment and food aid.

Against this backdrop, the UAE’s all-pervasive generosity has come in handy. The World’s Coolest Winter campaign, which celebrates the UAE’s most beautiful tourism destinations, could not have been more apt and badly needed: it is extending humanitarian support to more than 100,000 refugees and people in need through a new humanitarian initiative called Warm Winter.

The campaign will collaborate with Galaxy Racer’s Content Creator AboFlah, to support hundreds of thousands of refugees and families in need in Africa and the Arab world. It aims to raise over $10 million to provide food, winter clothing, blankets, mattresses and critical aid to help displaced men, women and children prepare for harsh winter conditions.

It is difficult to imagine that 3.8 million refugees and internally displaced persons in the Middle East and millions of destitute families in Africa live in tragic conditions in the face of one of the coldest winters in the region, as they face in the refugee-hosting countries in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

Temperatures plunge to sub-zero levels, and it is utterly distressing that a child would take shelter in a dilapidated tent, searching amid floods, storms and snow for some warmth.

With this in mind, the Let’s Make Their Winters Warmer campaign, launched by the The Most Beautiful Winter in the World campaign, in partnership with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, the UNHCR and the Regional Network of Food Banks, and in cooperation with Arab content creator Hassan Suleiman, known as AboFlah, aims to provide the largest amount of aid and support the largest number of refugee families and disadvantaged communities in the region in the winter season.

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