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British writer Neil Gaiman has launched a new video campaign with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to help raise funds for Syrian refugees, as part of the commission’s Winter Appeal. Gaiman is best known for his works of fiction, from his comic book series, The Sandman, to his popular novels, Stardust and American Gods.

Gaiman, a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador since 2017, released the video, featuring him reading a poem he wrote called “What You Need to Be Warm.” The poem draws attention to the plight of refugees, as animations in the video, created by more than 900 people, from artists to schoolchildren, depict the hardships many face. The video campaign will raise funds to support Syrian refugees in the Middle East throughout the winter season. Much of the funding raised will be dedicated to refugees in Lebanon, where families are facing a record-breaking level of “extreme poverty” in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the UNHCR.

The world can’t forget the plight of Syrian refugees this winter despite the global upheaval caused by COVID-19, fantasy author Neil Gaiman said last week as he helped launch the UN refugee programme’s cold weather appeal.

The award-winning writer said the pandemic had exposed weaknesses in governments’ ability to respond to crises, and should serve as a reminder that refugees are ordinary people dealing with upheaval. “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, said.

“For most refugees, that’s their plot too. They had plans for their life, they were trying to be where they were because most people like being where they are, and then everything went wrong,” he said. 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 that 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. Gaiman first travelled to the region to raise awareness of the issues faced by refugees in 2014. “I’ve been banging the drum now for refugees for seven years or more,” he said.

“I wound up going in 2014 to Jordan and seeing the camps up close and … talking to refugees and that was life-changing. I came away, there are photos of me coming away from there with this sort of thousand-yard stare. I just realised for myself how incredibly fragile civilisation is.