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Refugees are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. After being forced to escape conflict or persecution and leave their homes, communities, and countries, they then also suffer further hardships, including violence, abuse, and disease. The struggle is especially difficult for the many families of widow mothers and orphan children who have lost their breadwinner. Refugees need our help. Winters in these developing countries add to the hardship and struggle.

Whilst every day can be a struggle, whether they are in a dedicated camp or trying to cross borders into safer environments, the cold of winter is particularly challenging. Winter presents new tests for refugee families and forces them to make life-changing sacrifices just to survive. Our need to protect these refugees this winter is greater than ever.

UKIM has worked internationally to support refugees for over 50 years, making a difference through the charitable donations of generous donors. Our Winter Appeal offers direct assistance to Syrian and Rohingya refugees, supplying them with life-saving supplies and necessities during the coldest months. Leveraging this experience, our team explain exactly what refugees must endure during winter.

Lack of Shelter

When winter sets in, it is more important than ever to protect refugees. Short-term migrants and refugees often have no home in the country they reside in. Instead, they live in tent-filled campsites or simply on the street, trying to make ends meet. This lack of proper shelter leaves refugees prone to illness and disease, which, particularly in a camp setting, can quickly spread and affect a large portion of individuals.

Winters in developing countries are tough, particularly on the old, children, and vulnerable. Repeated exposure to cold during sleep can quickly lead to pneumonia and flu or, in extreme cases, even frostbite and hypothermia. With many refugees already weakened through their travels and lack of food, they are significantly more likely to contract these illnesses. Without healthcare, many refugees die from them. With better support, refugees will be better equipped to deal with the hardships and come through the winter months in better health.

Lack of Healthcare

Healthcare is a fundamental part of life and even more important over the winter period when illnesses are rife. During winter, cases of flu and colds greatly increase, even amongst non-refugees. Therefore, refugees are even more likely to suffer from illness because of the lack of shelter and often, for the most vulnerable people, a small sickness can lead to much greater suffering. We must protect refugees this winter by giving them access to better healthcare.

When single parent refugees caring for a young family become sick, the primary caregiver of the group is unable to fulfil their role. Without medical care, this can result in the whole family falling ill and makes them suffer more due to their greater susceptibility to abuse, manipulation and malnutrition.

This becomes a vicious cycle as families become sick and unable to support themselves, causing them to contract further illnesses, which can quickly deteriorate, potentially leading to death. This is a major reason why the UKIM team strive to provide not just warm blankets but also emergency healthcare. Without this vital support, vulnerable refugee families can find themselves between a rock and a hard place – unable to support themselves and so falling deeper into the sickness and suffering caused by cold weather.

Lack of Clothing

In addition to healthcare and shelter, clothing is another essential that plays a key role in protecting refugees during winter in developing countries. Many refugees are forced to abandon their homes in an instant, making them unable to take personal belongings with them, including their clothes. Even those refugees who are able to pack for their journey to somewhere safe often lose their possessions, either through theft or simply because it’s unsustainable to carry luggage over long travel periods.

Many refugees have only the clothes on their backs. In countries that are often hot and dry, this can be a killer when winter arrives. This lack of appropriate clothing leads to refugees wearing torn, thin, or ragged apparel that does little to keep out the elements. Ultimately, this results in the same risks as missing shelter and healthcare – an increased risk of contracting preventable diseases that can spread quickly and cripple an already struggling migrant family.

Blankets, warm clothes, gloves and shoes are all essential for keeping the elements out and the extremities warm, which is why we incorporate them into our Winter Survival Packs. Thousands of refugees are reliant on this support to stay strong, healthy, and determined in their struggle to survive.

Lack of Food

Finally, it’s important to highlight the fact that countless refugees have little-to-no access to food. For families with young children, this is particularly challenging; parents regularly sacrifice their own meals to feed their family. In the short term, this can work, but over time it can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies, crippling the main caregiver of the family and accentuating the struggles they face.

Refugees are often forced to ask for assistance during winter, which can feel humiliating and demoralising, particularly when they are turned away. This rejection occurs more regularly during the winter months, as families are forced to prioritise their own household, rationing what they do have to ensure there is enough to feed the whole family. In turn, vulnerable people end up left in the cold with nothing to eat and little hope of surviving.

Food packs grant these people life-saving sustenance that not only keeps them fed but also allows caregivers to grow in strength and rebuild their lives. For struggling migrant families, there are few struggles as important as staying fed.


As winter spreads over developing countries, it is more important than ever that we increase our efforts to protect refugees this winter. There are millions of refugees who rely on UKIM’s support and your generous donations. Through your charitable donations, we are able to provide these vulnerable brothers and sisters with the essentials they need to live and grow.

This winter, help us continue to provide hope. You can help protect refugees by donating through our winter appeal today and supporting those most in need.

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