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The Effects of Winter on Orphans and Widows Around the World

For the millions of vulnerable orphans and widows around the world, winter can be an incredibly challenging time. The lower temperatures pose a bigger threat to life and cause mortality rates to rise, as families and children without a breadwinner struggle try to survive and make ends meet.

At Muslim Aid, we work throughout the year to support those most in need through our Orphans and Widows Appeal. With support from our gracious donors, we are able to provide widows with the training and skills they need to sustain a livelihood and support their family, despite the loss of their primary breadwinner. Sustainable income generation plays a key role in helping these vulnerable members of society get through the winter safely and healthily.

To highlight exactly what these families go through, here are some of the major winter threats that they face.


More so than any other time of year, winter is a time when shelter is absolutely essential for survival. Harsh, biting winds, unrelenting rain and snowfall strike at those who are left out in the elements and exposed, suffering a range of detrimental impacts.

Initially, being out in the cold, wet weather leads to lack of sleep, aching bodies and low energy, all of which leave families increasingly helpless. Instead of spending the day staying warm through movement, those without shelter often huddle up for warmth only to be made colder by the increasingly harsh weather. Being out in this weather leaves already vulnerable people much more susceptible to illness and disease. Without adequate shelter, orphans and widows struggle to survive winter months.


Spending every day trying to make ends meet, and simply survive, leaves orphans and widows with ragged, worn clothing, and more often than not, the clothing they do have is not suitable for the colder weather. This is only accentuated by the issue of nowhere to call home let alone somewhere to store possessions. As a result, many are left with the clothes they stand in, and nothing more making the extremes of winter all the harsher.

Without adequate clothing, orphaned families are presented with a seemingly unwinnable battle. Even if they manage to acquire shelter, they are still likely to be cold, exposing them to a range of different threats. In particular, adequate clothing provides the warmth that allows for effective sleep and active movement, keeping people moving around and hopeful. A simple provision of suitable warm, dry clothing could reduce the many health risks that the cold weather leads to, keeping primary caregivers and orphans healthy.


Naturally, winter is a time when food is scarce. Without an income, widows and orphans often find difficult to acquire food , and the winter weather makes it all the more challenging. This leaves those in need extremely vulnerable and open to abuse, as they become increasingly desperate and willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

Without a regular source of sustenance, the impact this can have on the body – physically and mentally – is extremely tough. Regular fuel for the body helps keep people strong and able to fight illness and disease – without it, the alternative is much harder to survive.

By helping those in need to access food on a regular basis, you are helping them to fend off illness and make it through the toughest months of the year.


One of the major risks associated with winter’s increased mortality rate is the frequency of sickness. Vulnerable people with nowhere to call home, and no access to food and safe water are much more likely to get sick. Worse than that, with reduced immune systems, once sick, they often remain sick for a longer time. Left exposed due to inadequate clothing and shelter and low on strength due to lack of food, young orphaned families are extremely susceptible to illness.

Falling ill has a knock-on effect that can cause additional challenges for those in need. Widowed mothers are made to choose between medicine for themselves and their children, or food to get them through the cold. Many mothers sacrifice their own health and safety in the name of supporting their children, which can lead to even greater challenges in the future, as their role as the primary caregiver and supporting the family is at risk should they become seriously ill themselves.

Mental Health

All of these winter threats are compounded by the effects they have on mental health. Determination and hope are a lifeline for many of those struggling to survive and without them, they can surrender themselves to a life of suffering and eventual death.

No one should ever have to feel like this.

Through our Orphans and Widows Appeal, the team at Muslim Aid strive to prevent this from ever happening, helping widowed families and orphans to stay positive and prepare for the future. Your donations are a lifeline for those who need it most this winter and allow us to provide essential necessities, nutrition, neo-natal support and hope.

Please donate today and help change lives.

We are a faith-based British international charity that provides help to people who are victims of natural disasters or conflict or suffering from poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness, injustice, deprivation or lack of skills and economic opportunities.

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