In the bleak midwinter: Shelter aid in the coldest months

Learn more about how ShelterBox distributes aid items to help people without shelter keep warm in the winter

18 December 2023

A man and three children in a tent in Syria

For some, winter brings images of roaring fires, wrapping up to enjoy frosty days, and getting cosy at home. But for people who have lost their home due to disaster or conflict, the winter brings fear and a struggle to survive the bitterly cold temperatures. 

As temperatures drop, ShelterBox focuses our aid on items that help people survive the winter. In this blog learn about our work supporting people facing the cold without shelter. 


Man and three children sitting inside a tent in Syria
Ali was very concerned about his children as they faced the winter in a Syrian displacement camp


We have been working in Syria now for over twelve years. For those who have lost their homes due to the conflict there, life can be hard. However it gets even harder in winter when temperatures can plunge to freezing.  

Ali and his family live in a displacement camp in northwest Syria. With eleven of them in a tent, conditions were difficult. One of Ali’s biggest concerns was the Syrian winter. “Winter is difficult for those living in tents. The tents are four years old and most of them are worn out and need to be renewed or repaired. The tent does not protect against the cold of winter or the heat of summer. Winter is very harsh.” 

To help families like Ali’s, we have run many winterisation projects in Syria. Aid items distributed have included blankets, mattresses, shelter kits and warm winter clothes.  

Like Ali, Waled was worried about his family in the Syrian winter. After being helped with winter aid, Waled shared how happy his children were. “The children were very happy when they got new clothes, they like them a lot especially the jeans and jackets. I felt so happy seeing my children so happy. It has made a big difference, now they have new and warm clothes, they can go out and play. They are warm all day.” 

With the conflict in Syria continuing, we continue to support people there forced from their homes. This will include aid to help them survive the cold winter months.


Man and child sitting on the floor amid buildings destroyed by flooding in Pakistan
Abdul and his family faced chilly nights sleeping out in the open after their home was destroyed in the Pakistan floods. We were able to support them with a tent and other aid items.


In Pakistan, nights can be chilly all year. In the winter night time temperatures reach as low as 4°C in much of the country. In the mountains temperatures often go below freezing. For people forced from their homes by the severe flooding in 2022, the coming winter was another challenge to face. 

ShelterBox responded to the floods with a project distributing tents and household items. These allowed people to take shelter from the cold, cook warm meals, and source clean water. We are now working on building more durable shelters and latrines. Some families were also helped with cash assistance.  

Abdul was one of the many people affected by the flooding. A farmer, Abdul lost both his house and his crops in the floods. He and his family were left with nothing. They were sleeping out in the open with no shelter, with the nights being very chilly. ShelterBox was able to support Abdul with a tent, solar lights and clean water. Abdul said that having a roof over their heads had made the family joyful.  


Woman standing outside a house damaged by the earthquake in Morocco
Samira outside her home that was severely damaged in the Morocco earthquake. We were able to support her with a tent and aid items ahead of the cold winters in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco


One of the worst affected regions in Morocco by the 2023 earthquake was the Atlas Mountains. At these high altitudes temperatures plummet in the winter. For people whose homes were damaged or destroyed, the approaching winter was a great concern.  

Samira was one of the many whose house was destroyed in the earthquake. She was very worried about the changing seasons. “The winter here is very cold, If I have something to do outside, then I will go. Like going to the shops, and then I will come home and stay inside and keep warm.” 

She added, “Everyone is just outside; we do not have any houses to keep warm in. It is very cold, especially at night. After the earthquake everything has changed, before everyone had homes to keep warm in, now we do not have that.” 

We are supporting those affected by the earthquake with sturdy tents, thermal blankets, kitchen sets and solar lights. Of these items Samira said, “The ShelterBox tent will help a lot. For our kitchen, the cooking sets will be very helpful. We need the solar lights because what we have now is not enough, and we need the blankets to keep warm. 


Man sitting on a scooter inside a displacement camp in Yemen
Salim and his family struggled in the Yemen’s chilly winter nights before receiving aid including a tent, sleeping mats and blankets


The climate of Yemen can be one of extremes – extremely hot days in desert regions, and chilly nighttime temperatures in winter. This harsh climate is the backdrop to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Civil war, starvation and a failing economy have displaced millions of people. 

People forced from their homes face a battle for survival as they have to endure Yemen’s hot, rainy and cold seasons without shelter. Salim is one of these people, forced from his home with his wife and children. For Salim, the extremes of Yemen’s climate was one of his biggest challenges. “I need mattresses and blankets for me and my children. The weather here is hot and windy in summer and so cold in winter so we need things that protect us from this weather like blankets, mattresses and tarpaulins for the tent.” 

Salim described the conditions that the family faced in winter. “It is too cold especially at night. Me and my children try to cover our body with blankets we have to sleep but still we feel freezing.” 

We supported Salim with items to help the family withstand some of the extremes of Yemen’s climate. This included a family sized tent, blankets and sleeping mats. Salim was very pleased with the tent and the protection it would give the family. 


Woman sitting inside a damaged building with a stove in Ukraine
Halyna inside her home that was damaged during the conflict in Ukraine. We supported Halyna with a stove to help keep warm in the freezing Ukraine winter.


In Ukraine, the bitterly cold winter months bring hardship for those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed by the conflict there. The temperatures routinely drop below freezing in the winter, and snow and ice are common. 

Halyna was one of the many people whose home was badly damaged by bombing. She spent twelve months staying with family members before returning home. The windows, doors and radiators were all destroyed. Recalling the months she was forced from her home, Halyna said “No one was allowed to enter the village. Nobody was there. The neighbours sent photos to my children and the children said: ‘Mum, everything is broken there.’” 

We supported Halyna with a winter shelter aid package. This included a wood burning stove that gave Halyna some much needed warmth. “Thank you so much! We have no money to fix the boiler, this summer is like salvation. I am very pleased that I received such help. I am happy that I have warmth in my home.” 

Winter aid

Young child wearing winter clothes and carrying more in Syria
Nada wearing and carrying some of the winter clothes she received in Syria


The aid that we distribute depends on the location and situation of those we are supporting – each disaster is unique. Some examples of aid we might distribute to those facing cold temperatures include: 

  • Tents – Our tents can come in different shapes and sizes. This includes padded tents that can safely accommodate a stove. This is ideal for those facing colder temperatures. 
  • Thermal blankets and mattresses – Thermal blankets and warm bedding can help people stay warm and sleep comfortably when temperatures drop 
  • Tarpaulins and shelter kits – these can be used to block drafts in damaged buildings and temporary shelters 
  • Kitchen sets – kitchen sets and utensils allow people to prepare warm meals 
  • Winter clothing – many displaced people are forced to leave belongings behind, including winter clothing. We distribute thick coats and warm clothing for both children and adults. This helps protect them against the coldest temperatures. 
  • Stoves and fuel – for shelters and damaged homes without heating, stoves provide some much-needed warmth. 


Sadly disasters don’t stop. And the winter brings even greater challenges for people forced from their homes. Donate now to help us be there for those that need us. 

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