With Winter Approaching, Here’s How You Can Help Refugees Bracing for the Cold

Falling temperatures and rough ocean waters could kill thousands if aid efforts can’t meet their needs.
Ala Jatti, from Baghdad, keeps warm with an emergency blanket at the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. (Photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill/IRC via Facebook)
Nov 5, 2015· 2 MIN READ
TakePart editorial fellow Nicole Mormann covers a variety of topics, including social justice, entertainment, and environment.

Record numbers of refugees arrived on European beaches in October in a desperate attempt to reach asylum before the harsh cold hits.

Europe is in the midst of its largest humanitarian crisis since World War II. Without increased efforts to provide refugees with the materials they need to brave the coming winter, thousands could die. More than 218,000 people crossed the Mediterranean Sea in October alone, and the influx only continues. This past year, over a million refugees and migrants took the perilous Mediterranean route to reach Europe—an estimated 253,700 of them were children.

As of January 19, 2016, children make up more than one in three of the migrant and refugee population escaping to Europe, according to the United Nations. The United Nation's Childrens Fund is warning that children could freeze to death in south-eastern Europe, considering most lack the adequate clothing, heating, and shelter needed to brace sub-zero temperatures and snowy conditions. Children arriving by rubber dinghies on the Greek shore of Lesbos were said to be wearing only t-shirts and soaking wet upon being rescued.

Apart from the possibility of boats capsizing—more than 80 people were said to have drowned in Greece’s waters in October—those taking the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean risk hypothermia and pneumonia. For refugees stuck at closed borders, falling temperatures could put those stranded and without aid at the mercy of the elements.

On the Greek island of Lesbos, volunteers are scrambling to save the thousands of refugees arriving on the island’s shores each week. But their efforts are not enough.

Some who make it to the Balkans, at least, won’t have to sleep on muddy ground under fast-approaching rain and snow: Serbia and Croatia have just formed an agreement to allow migrants to travel by train from the border of Serbia to a migration center in Croatia.

“As governments look the other way, refugees are dying. But the response desperately needs the political will of the EU, and in particular, properly resourced and well-conceived action to ensure the humane reception of refugees,” said Kirk Day, International Rescue Committee regional refugee representative, in a recent IRC blog post.

No matter where you live, there are ways you can help. Here are some organizations working to supply refugees with the thermal wear and shelter they desperately need before weather conditions worsen.

International Rescue Committee

The IRC is helping refugees survive the coming harsh winter by supplying those in need with emergency kits, including warm blankets, insulated boots and clothing, woolen socks, mattresses, and sheets through its “Warmth Through the Winter” campaign. A $114 donation can provide a family with necessary kits for the winter season.

Doctors Without Borders

The Doctors Without Borders team is working in Serbia to treat 400 people in need of medical treatment daily. To prepare for the coming winter, the medical staff is recruiting more members and stocking up on tents, blankets, raincoats, winter clothing, and hygiene kits for refugees in border areas. Click here to make a contribution.

Migrant Offshore Aid Station

With more refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean before winter, organizations like MOAS are providing rescue assistance to those making the perilous journey to European shores. According to the MOAS website, the organization has rescued 11,680 people so far. Donate here to help MOAS continue saving lives at sea.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

In Greece, the UNHCR is providing blankets, transportation, accommodations, and medical care to refugees arriving on the Lesbos shore; across Europe and around the world, the agency is one of the most active in helping aid those fleeing conflict. See how you can get involved here.

Starfish Foundation Lesbos

These volunteers are acting as one of the emergency response teams handling the influx of refugees coming to Lesbos each day. They are distributing blankets and food and making makeshift beds. Go to their Facebook page to help support their work.