Imagine the population of Birmingham – around one million people – having to flee their homes and live in tents, abandoned buildings or temporary shelters. Now imagine this happening at the same time in Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield. This is the reality in Iraq right now. 

There are over three million displaced people in Iraq ­– families who have been forced to move to other parts of the country to escape intense fighting. Pictures of Iraq often show dry landscapes and extreme summer heat. 

However, winter temperatures can be bitterly cold, falling to below freezing at night. Staying warm in these difficult conditions is a daily challenge for displaced and vulnerable people. The UN determined that having enough fuel to heat their temporary shelters or homes was people’s biggest need in Iraq this winter. 

In response, the British Red Cross’ partners, such as the Iraq Red Crescent Society, are providing kerosene to 2,400 families during the cold months. Our programme to help people cope this winter – funded by donations to our Iraq Crisis Appeal – focuses on vulnerable people in northern Iraq who do not have other support, such as households headed by women. 

Jacqueline Hammo Abdel, whose husband has been missing since their village was caught up in fighting in August, is receiving Red Cross support this winter. Together with her 16-year-old son and her brother’s family, Jacqueline now lives in an unfinished house in another part of the country. 

With only her brother’s modest income to support them, the family of five are struggling to survive. “I am so happy and grateful to have the kerosene so that we can now live in a warm place. I can now save some money for other necessary things like a heater and some good food for my family,” said Jacqueline. 

The family will use the kerosene to heat their home between 5pm and 5am when the temperatures are lowest. Nearby, many Syrian refugees still live in tents in refugee camps so the Red Cross will provide 200 winter shelter kits to help them keep warm this winter. 

Each kit can be used to put up a shelter with two rooms, two windows and two doors, which will keep people warmer and give larger families more space. The walls are made of plastered blocks and the roof is both strong enough for cold winter weather and not too hot during the blazing summer. 

Designed to sit on top of existing tent foundations, the new shelters are stable and easy to build. They also benefit from having electricity, and people can use existing outside toilet and shower blocks nearby. 

Michael van Koesveld, British Red Cross Iraq country manager, said: 

“The Red Cross is working across the Middle East to help refugees and displaced people cope during the winter months. “The need is still great but contributions by the UK public to our emergency appeals have made it possible for us to provide much-needed support through our Red Cross and Red Crescent partners.”

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