Kashmir is located between Pakistan, India, and China, with the Himalayas running through it. As a result of the incredible and varied terrain, the area enjoys a rather moderate climate, but weather patterns can be unpredictable. Winter is a trying time for many countries and communities, but for the 12.55 million people living in Kashmir, winter can be particularly hard.
The state has endured more than seven decades of war and conflict, the scars of which can still be seen, particularly as the weather turns. Our Kashmir appeal aims to help the Kashmiri people through the coldest time of the year, ensuring the most vulnerable members of the community have the tools they need to keep warm and survive, but we can’t do it without your help. To highlight how important your kind donations are, we’ve put together some vital information about winter in Kashmir and how your contributions just might save a life.
One of the main struggles the Kashmiri people are facing this winter is in relation to inadequate housing. There are several reasons why housing in Kashmir is substandard, with conflict being the main influencing factor. After more than seven decades of war, Kashmir’s infrastructure has been severely damaged by the effects of conflict, with countless people losing their homes and ending up internally displaced with nowhere to call home. Despite the last war ending in 1999, the fallout has lasted much longer.
Over 100,000 people, including innocent Kashmiri people, have died since 1947 as a direct result of the fighting, many of whom were men. This has left thousands of women widowed and even more children orphaned. Without a main breadwinner, women and children are forced to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, due to a lack of income, this often means living in a proper house isn’t possible.
This, paired with the damaged housing infrastructure, has resulted in people turning to makeshift shelters made of flimsy materials like sheets of tin and tarpaulin. It’s not ideal, but it offers more protection and privacy than living on the streets. It doesn’t provide warmth, however.
Most of us are used to switching the heating on and wrapping up warm when winter arrives, but this isn’t possible when you live in a tin shelter like many Kashmiri people do. There are no radiators or double glazed windows. Draught excluders don’t exist, and blackout curtains aren’t available to take the bite out of the wind.
You might think that due to its location, Kashmir doesn’t get cold in winter, but this isn’t true. From December to February, it’s not uncommon for temperatures to falter around the freezing mark, with daytime highs struggling to reach double digits. This isn’t too dissimilar from the UK, but the difference is, we have the means to keep warm. Thousands of Kashmiri people don’t.
Keeping Kashmiri people warm in winter is about more than ensuring they’re comfortable. Staying warm is imperative to survival. When temperatures dip below freezing – as they do in Kashmir – the threat of frostbite becomes very real for those whose skin is exposed to the bitter air. Living in inadequate housing with limited access to basic supplies like clothing and blankets makes this an unavoidable reality for so many, especially those in rural areas or the Kashmiri people who have been affected by the restrictions brought around by the revocation of Article 370.
It’s not just frostbite and hypothermia that are risks, though. Winter is notorious for the spread of disease in almost every country, and the Kashmir region is no exception. Typical winter bugs run rife, but the lack of accessible healthcare makes them particularly dangerous. It’s even more dangerous for those with low immune systems as a result of malnourishment and a poor diet – especially children.
Winter is a time to wrap up warm, practice good hygiene, eat warm meals, and get vaccinated against preventable diseases like the flu. For the people of Kashmir, much of this is unattainable.
Despite Kashmir being halfway across the world, there is a way you can help to keep the vulnerable community warm. By donating to our winter emergency appeal, you’ll enable us to distribute hot food, thermal blankets, suitable clothing, and essential healthcare this winter. The Kashmir conflict may be over – for now – but the effects are still prevalent in winter, and that’s why our winter appeal is so important.
If you want to provide more direct assistance to at risk families, consider donating to our orphans and widow support appeal. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll be able to make a difference and keep a person in need warm this winter.
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