WINDSOR MILL, Maryland — Many of the world’s 689 million people, or 10% of the global population, that live in poverty also lack access to adequate winter supplies. Although the majority of the world’s impoverished live in warmer climates, many reside in areas that experience harsh winter conditions. As such, cold months make the poor’s struggles much more difficult. Therefore, the question arises: how do people fight global poverty during winter?
Winter Hardships and Poverty
Certain struggles are specific to the poor during winter. Many shelters, for example, are not strong enough to prevent the harsh weather from reaching the families inside, exposing them to the elements. Some do not even have access to shelter at all. Many of those living in poverty also suffer from an acute lack of electricity, which may be used for heating purposes, and warm clothing.
Without adequate clothing, houses or the ability to heat their homes, winter exposes the poor, increasing their health risks. Not only are they more susceptible to sicknesses such as the flu and pneumonia but now COVID-19 presents an even greater challenge in preventing sickness and disease. On top of all of this, access to healthcare is often out of reach with many of the ill-being unable to receive treatment at all.
Building Adequate Housing
Providing access to proper housing is one impactful way of helping the vulnerable through winter. This solution protects those in need from weather conditions such as extreme cold, rain and snow. Adequate shelter also helps to keep people warm, which decreases the likelihood of getting sick and makes it easier for those without adequate access to healthcare services to cope with certain diseases.
The first way to provide proper shelter is to repair damaged or weak homes through restoration, painting, plastering and rebuilding. A second approach is to provide technology or maintenance supplies within those homes to keep them functioning. This could include wooden doors, tile floors or gas heaters and cookers. Another strategy involves replacing shoddy tents with stronger ones that properly protect people from the weather outside.
One example of people suffering from extreme poverty, cold and a lack of proper housing is the situation in Gaza, Palestine. Islamic Relief Worldwide is one international aid organization that works to provide families with warm, safe homes in the winter. In 2019, it assisted 485 Palestinians in keeping their homes strong by providing support and supplies like heaters, clothes and blankets. British charity group Human Appeal also helped by repairing 12 homes, giving 93 people access to a proper home in 2018. The repairs involved building kitchens, bathrooms and improving plumbing.
Clothes, Coats and Blankets
Those living in poverty often have limited access to clothing as well. The issue becomes worse when the cold months arrive. Therefore, there are many organizations that have campaigns to provide winter clothing to those living through winter poverty, including refugees. These winter campaigns tend to include winter clothes, winter shoes, coats, regular blankets and space blankets, which are covers that decrease heat loss through thermal radiation.
Every winter, UNICEF has clothing campaigns where winter kits are sent to children suffering the worst from the cold. Within these kits are trousers, warm sweaters, a thermal clothing set, hats, gloves, shoes, socks and scarves. Through the winter of 2019 – 2020, UNICEF distributed around “600 blankets and 16,000 winter kits for children” from one to 14 years of age within the Hama governate of Syria alone.
Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) is another international nonprofit that has a Winter Provisions Campaign where donors can sponsor a package for an entire family. Within these packages are jackets, gloves, hats, socks, warm clothing, bedding and non-perishable food. The organization most recently distributed these packages to refugees in Bangladesh, India, Jordan and Lebanon as well as those suffering in Nepal, Afghanistan and Kashmir, Pakistan.
Just a Small Amount of Energy
While clothing and proper housing play their own roles in keeping people warm, providing different forms of energy is also a useful strategy for fighting global poverty during winter. Proper heating keeps bodies warm and prevents viruses from spreading as easily internally.
A few organizations that work on providing shelters and winter kits through campaigns have strategies that provide energy as well. For example, HHRD has heaters included in its Winter Provision Package. Islamic Relief Worldwide also sends heaters to assist in home improvement and part of Human Appeals’ home repairment strategy includes installing electricity.
These are just a few solutions that organizations use to prevent the cold from doing its worst damage. While no solution is absolute, without these provisions, many more would perish than already do from the extreme cold, whether it be from starvation, freezing or a heightened disease contraction rate. As such, continued access to cold-combatting supplies is essential to fighting global poverty during winter and keeping people safe and healthy.
– Maryam Tori