Press releases

Children will die from cold this winter in Syria without more humanitarian help 

A lack of humanitarian assistance means millions of displaced people face sub-zero temperatures without the basics needed to survive.

5 December 2023

Children wearing winter clothing holding hands in Syria

Press release – 5 December

The Chief Executive of the international disaster relief charity ShelterBox warned today that a lack of humanitarian assistance means millions of displaced people around the world are facing sub-zero temperatures this winter without the basics needed to survive. 

Syria is home to the largest number of internally displaced people in the world, where temperatures drop below freezing every year. Yet people displaced by the ongoing conflict aren’t getting the support they need – shelter and simple items like thermal blankets, winter clothing, and clean drinking water. Children, who account for more than half of the 6.9 million internally displaced people across Syria, are left particularly vulnerable. 

People have had to flee their homes because of violence, some again because of the recent earthquakes, and now the threat of winter looms heavy. Syria isn’t the only country where displaced people will endure freezing winter temperatures. ShelterBox is also supporting people left homeless by earthquakes in Morocco and Türkiye, flooding in Libya, and war in Ukraine. 

As ShelterBox launches its winter fundraising appeal, supported by Imelda Staunton, to help fund its responses around the world, its CEO Sanj Srikanthan has this warning. 

People don’t have the necessary protection to escape from the constant misery of being cold this winter. Bitter temperatures in places like Syria put children at particular risk of dying from the cold without more humanitarian help,” he says. 

“Conflict and disaster do not stop with the arrival of winter and another exceptionally cold season could be the tipping point for displaced communities who have had to endure so much.” 

The Cornwall-based charity has supported more than 360,000 people in northern Syria since 2012 with shelter aid and other essential household items, as well as more than 90,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.  

ShelterBox has been working alongside its partners ReliefAid and Bahar Organisation to get aid to people in Syria, adapting its aid package come winter since 2016 because of the sub-zero temperatures. The charity provides simple items that make a tangible difference. This winter it will be supporting more than 20,000 people across northern Syria – providing thermal clothing and blankets to help keep people warm, carpets to help keep the warmth in, and tarpaulins so people can make temporary shelters weatherproof – protecting themselves and their families from harsh winds and heavy rains. With power blackouts, it also provides solar lights so when darkness falls families can still have a sense of normality. 

Leading the charity’s response in Syria is programme manager Jack Bailey. He says: “Some people have been in displacement camps for more than 10 years, leaving their homes, belongings, and livelihoods behind to keep themselves and their children safe. There are more than two million people living in camps across northern Syria. This is all some children have ever known, yet it seems the people living in this nightmare have been forgotten. 

“Adapting our aid offer in winter makes a significant difference to the people we support, but the number of people needing help is huge and more humanitarian support is desperately needed.” 

In support of its winter fundraising appeal, Imelda Staunton has voiced a picture book for a short film raising awareness of the threat the cold poses to people fleeing conflict and disaster. The book ‘In the Cold Night’ was written following the earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye by children’s author Sarah Tagholm, who also works at ShelterBox. It has been illustrated by Karen George. 

Imelda Staunton says: “It’s hard to fathom that 110 million people around the world – nearly double the number of people in the entire UK – are displaced, having had to leave their homes because of disaster, conflict, or the climate crisis.  

“For people without adequate shelter – having had no other safe option but to leave homes, livelihoods, belongings and loved ones behind, the winter months can make it even more difficult. 

“I’ve been a supporter of ShelterBox for years – their responses to disasters providing families with emergency shelter and other essential items is simple but tangible. Like solar lights for dark nights, water filters for drinkable water, thermal blankets to stay warm, and shelter so people can protect their families from the cold, wind, and rain.  

“So, when ShelterBox asked me to narrate their film based on the experiences of families they met after the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, I was glad to be able to support their appeal and help raise awareness for displaced people, families, and communities around the world.” 

  • £30 could provide a family with a sleeping mat and thermal blankets 
  • £60 could provide a family with a water filter giving them access to clean drinking water 
  • £350 could provide a family with a tent, a space for a family to call home 


To find out more about ShelterBox’s winter fundraising appeal, visit   




For more information contact the press office at ShelterBox via [email protected].   

Notes to Editors   

  • B-roll and images of ShelterBox responses in Syria since 2011, Imelda Staunton and the campaign film. Written case-studies available. 
  • Interviews available with ShelterBox CEO Sanj Srikanthan, programme manager Jack Bailey, and emergency preparedness lead Rachel Harvey. 
  • The Syrian Conflict Explained – ShelterBox.