Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

‘American Gods’ author knits a warm call for forgotten Syrian refugees this winter

Wed 09 Dec 2020    
| 3 min read

The bitter plight of Syrian refugees continues to be shadowed by the pandemic-tainted pitfalls of the year, but fantasy storyteller Niel Gaiman has sought to remind people that their misery should not be forgotten as the weather takes a biting turn.

The award-winning author on Tuesday helped launch the UN refugee programme’s cold weather appeal, saying the COVID-19 outbreak has exposed weaknesses in the governments’ ability to respond to a crisis.

“The thing that if anything 2020 has intensified, is that we are all one step away from being refugees,” Gaiman, Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, told AFP.

Famed for his surreal novels such as “American Gods” and “The Sandman” comic series, Gaiman has collaborated with hundreds of fans and artists to release a new animated version of his crowd-sourced poem, “What You Need to Be Warm”.

“People are incredibly resilient, people are imaginative, people are creative,” he said.

“But for a lot of people, and for a lot of refugees, 2020 may have been the final aftershock of the earthquake that finally brings down the house.”

UNHCR has warned that winter 2020 — for some their ninth away from home — is likely to be the harshest yet for the more than six million Syrian refugees who fled their country during the near-decade long civil war.

Annual challenges such as snow and freezing temperatures will be harder to manage as Covid-19 has drastically affected relief campaigns.

“It’s very easy to forget the refugee crisis, it’s very easy to forget that there are nearly 80 million people forcibly displaced right now in the world,” said Gaiman. “And we can’t forget them.

“It’s getting really cold out there; it’s even colder if you’re living in a tent.”

Syrian refugees in Lebanon weather harsh conditions in makeshift shelters

Lisa Abou Khaled, UNHCR’s spokesperson in Beirut, told AFP 2020 had been the “hardest year yet” for the one million Syrians exiled in Lebanon.

She said many were struggling to survive freezing temperatures and torrential rain in makeshift shelters.

“Life is made even tougher by the devastating impact of Covid-19,” she said.

To help raise awareness, Gaiman asked his followers on Twitter to share their memories of being warm.

He received more than 25,000 words in response, using them as inspiration for the poem, which has now been turned in to an animated short drawing on artworks from artists and refugees.

“Twitter can be a cesspit,” he said.

“It can be the worst place in the world and yet, sometimes, you can go out and say ‘what does it mean to be warm?’ and get 25,000 words of replies from people and all of them evoke memory, childhood, the joy of coming from a cold place to a warm place.”

Gaiman, who explained how many of his family members perished in the Holocaust, ends the poem: “You have the right to be here.”

He said 2020 had shown the fragility of even democratic governments and modern health care systems, just as the 2015 refugee crisis in Europe laid bare the extent of human suffering in those fleeing conflict.

“It’s good to welcome people in because one day you may want to be welcomed.”

The animated film and donation instructions for UNHCR’s Winter Appeal can be found at:

[Sourced from Agencies]