Wherever you are in the world, winter can be a deadly time of year; so much so that most countries measure excess winter deaths. By doing so, governments can see how many people lose their lives during winter and to what end, helping them to better understand the causes and what measures can be put in place to prevent winter mortality moving forwards.
For most countries, exposure to cold temperatures and a lack of accessible healthcare are leading causes of excess winter deaths. In countries like the UK, the government has the provisions necessary to reduce deaths through providing adequate housing and national healthcare that is free at the point of access, but this isn’t the case in developing countries.
ILM works across a number of developing countries around the world, providing life-saving aid in the way of shelter, clothes, healthcare, and food. For the communities we support, the need for assistance is there all year round, but it intensifies during winter.
Nepal, Pakistan, India, and Palestine are some of the main countries we work in. Located in Asia and the Middle East, many people mistakenly believe winter in these countries is warm and sunny, but this is not the case. Temperatures drop considerably and weather patterns become more extreme and unpredictable, making winter in these regions just as deadly, if not more so, than winter in the UK.
To highlight how cold it gets, use the interactive temperature map below.
Nepal is most famous for the Himalayas and the thousands of mountaineers who flock there each year, keen to climb Everest and tick one more thing off their bucket list. Despite its beauty, the high altitude brings with it bitter temperatures. Tourists know to bring the thickest thermals possible, but for thousands of Nepalese people, they don’t have that luxury.
The skies are generally free of cloud cover which results in bright, sunny days, but come nightfall, the lack of cloud exposes the country to the harshest climates. In 2018, 24 Nepalese people, including a seven-month-old child, died as a direct result of excessively cold temperatures. Without the provisions to stay warm, surviving winter is nearly impossible.
Palestine is regarded to have a Mediterranean temperature which means summers are long, dry, and hot, but winters are extremely cold and wet. The difference between Palestine and many other countries is that the country is unstable and conflict is never far away. Add to this excessive blockades and it’s clear to see why so many Palestinians lose their lives come winter.
Life-saving supplies are desperately needed to fight off single digit temperatures, but blockades and fighting means thousands of people go without. Many people’s homes are nothing but rubble, and power is intermittent which makes it difficult to adequately retain heat from electric heat sources for those who are fortunate to still have four walls around them. With heavy rainfall and buildings designed to repel heat rather than retain it, there is no reprieve and little to no hope left for Palestinians forced to face winter head on.
In the UK, the climate is temperate and cold weather is never far away. This means our homes are built to retain precious heat and most of us have an extensive winter wardrobe comprised of thick jumpers and thermal coats. Shutting winter out is – for most of us – as easy as closing the door and putting the heating on. For vulnerable people in communities we work with, this is something they could only dream of. That’s despite winter temperatures in the UK and the countries we work in being comparatively similar.
India’s seasons work differently to those we’re used to because they have a monsoon period. Following the monsoons is winter. Generally speaking, India has a hot climate, but winter rivals the UK in terms of how cold it is. Depending on the location in the country, snowfall can be a common feature of winter, as is dense fog and strong winds.
Despite being one of the richest countries in the world, more than 800 million of the 1.3 billion population are living in poverty, 5% of whom are living in extreme poverty. With less than $1.90 to live on per day, millions of people are destitute. They barely have the means to find enough food or a sliver of shelter, let alone to fight off the cold of winter, resulting in thousands, if not millions, of preventable deaths.
Pakistan is listed as one of the countries that is most at risk of the effects of climate change, and winter highlights the threats of global warming like nothing else. Temperatures in summer climb to well over 30˚C, with temperatures in excess of 40˚C not unheard of, but winter couldn’t be more different. Like India, Pakistan experiences thick fog and heavy snowfall in northern areas, and sub-zero temperatures are a part of life for many.
Unfortunately, vulnerable people in Pakistan don’t have the means to fight off the bitter cold, including the 9% of the population who have no home at all. Without so much as a sheet of tarpaulin to separate them from the harsh winds, winter is a fight for life in Pakistan.
From the map above, you can see just how much the temperature fluctuates in the countries we work in. In summer, temperatures soar to an almost unbearable high across most of these nations, but in winter, nightly lows can dip below freezing, making surviving winter difficult. Making it through the heat of summer is one thing, but winter brings with it more risks.
In the UK, the climate is fast changing and cold weather is never far away. This means our homes are built to retain precious heat and most of us have an extensive winter wardrobe comprised of thick jumpers and thermal coats. Shutting winter out is – for most of us – as easy as closing the door and putting the heating on. For vulnerable people in communities we work with, this is something they could only dream of. That’s despite winter temperatures in the UK and the countries we work in being comparatively similar.
Even if temperatures don’t dip below freezing, winter can still be deadly. Without warm meals, hot drinks, thermal blankets, and a heat source, surviving winter is a fight for life. Combine this with a lack of accessible healthcare to fend off winter diseases and unsuitable shelter, it’s not hard to see why so many of the countries we work in have high excess winter deaths- many of which can be prevented through aid distribution.
No one deserves to fend for themselves without adequate protection this winter, and that’s why our winter charity appeal is so vital. With your donations to our winter appeal, we can support people most in need in the countries we work in, ensuring they’re able to survive winter and beyond.
Please give what you can – it all makes a difference. Just £25 can provide a family with a heat source and fuel, and £50 can provide a food parcel to keep people nourished and healthy throughout this, the harshest season. Your donation qualifies for Zakat and could save a life.