Winter storms in America mean schoolchildren are forced to stay home, highways are shut down, and heating bills are sent soaring whenever an arctic blast of cold temperatures and wind grips an area.

But for most of us, cold weather is merely a temporary nuisance, something to talk about, as we add another layer or two of clothing and spend a little more time huddled in our warm homes.

But wintery blasts are also hitting the Middle East with snows, rain and strong winds forecast to recur frequently during the next several months, threatening Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In many of these countries, more than 3 million refugees from the four-year-old Syrian conflict now reside in temporary camps. Overall, the United Nations Human Rights Council has estimated that 12.2 million people within Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance — food, medical care, shelter.  Of those in need, 6.5 million people have been repeatedly displaced within the country.

As winter intensifies, these refugees have urgent needs. Without adequate food, water, warm clothing, or appropriate shelter during the coming months, Syrians both in the nation itself, in refugee camps and cities and towns in neighboring countries face death, sickness, and starvation.

The world’s response to this crisis has been distressingly inadequate. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was planning to help 1.4 million people with Syria with winter aid, but only raised funds for half that much. The UN World Food Program temporarily suspended food vouchers to more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees because of funding crises. Many governments have failed to meet their pledges.

The monetary response on behalf of American foundations and individuals has been insignificant and troublesome. Our research uncovered only a few million dollars in donations over a period of the last few years.

As you settle in for another day of talking about the Polar Vortex, take a moment to think about a family that has fled Syria with no belongings only to face a cold winter in a refugee camp with no home and little warm clothing or food. Take some action today:

  • Fund a nonprofit organization working within Syria to help meet basic needs that arose from this crisis.
  • Fund a nonprofit working in neighboring countries to meet both the needs of Syrian refugees living in camps.
  • Read more about the crisis and how you can help to meet immediate needs as well as support long-term recovery needs on our website.

Tell us what you are doing, so we can share it – and motivate – others to take action. Time is of the essence.