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Thursday, December 15, 2011

This Festive Season give the best gift possible to Somali refugees: save their lives

After traveling for weeks across arduous terrain with little or no food and water 5 year old Yusuf and his family arrived hungry and tired in Kenya. Drought in their homeland of Somalia killed their animals and crops and forced them to flee for their lives.

On top of the constant hunger and extreme weather conditions they were forced to endure, they were also robbed of all their money and possessions along the way; arriving in Kenya with literally nothing except the clothes upon their backs.

Thanks to assistance from UNHCR they are now starting their new life as refugees in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex, but their troubles are far from over.

“I remember the hunger, the thirst, and the weakness as we made our way to the border… Four of the children of the families we were traveling with died. We helped bury them and then carried on." Yusuf's father Abdullahi.

Refugees like Yusuf and his family are in need of everything from shelter, to water to healthcare, and they need it now.

Help us today to give refugees hope for the future

Your donation will allow UNHCR to deliver humanitarian aid and assistance both inside Somalia and across East Africa to save the lives and protect thousands of children like Yusuf.

Somalia is currently suffering from one of the worst humanitarian crises in memory. As if 20 years of civil war weren’t enough, Somalis are also now facing the worst drought in 60 years.

In 2011 alone more that 163,000 Somalis have fled to Kenya and a further 98,200 are currently seeking refuge in Ethiopia.

Many do not survive the perilous journey to cross into neighbouring countries. Mothers have been forced to watch, powerless to do anything, as their children die in front of their eyes. Those that do make it to refugee camps are arriving in terrible conditions.

They need urgent medical assistance and nutritional support. They also need clean drinking water and shelter to protect themselves from the harsh climate.

UNHCR can give them this. We provide shelter, food, water, medical care and other basic necessities for refugee children and their families.

Around the world, millions of people rely on the UN Refugee Agency for their survival. Some refugees may need our help for only a short time. But many face years living in isolated refugee camps.

Please help by giving what you can this festive season. Here are just a few examples of what your money could provide:

US $10 provides 10 bars of soap to help stop the spread of diseases such as Cholera.
US $50 provides therapeutic feeding kits – each one helps feed five children.
US $100 provides survival kits – each has a blanket, mattress, kitchen set, stove and soap.
US $450 provides an all-weather tent to shelter a refugee family.
Every dollar you give means a life saved.

Thank you for your support.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Support refugees’ rights: UN

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has blasted countries that enact laws meant to suppress migrants.

With an estimated three million of its people exiled in South Africa alone, Zimbabwe is one of the world’s highest refugee-producing countries. Most of the exiles are being suppressed and harassed in their host countries.

The UNHCR Chief said “dramatic” events had forced hundreds of thousands of people to seek refuge across borders in 2011, when more than 750 000 people became refugees, following upheaval and conflict in Africa and the Middle East.

“Global forced displacement figures already stood at a 15-year high at the end of 2010, with 43.7 million people uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide,” he said. “Recent events indicate that this number is likely to rise again by the end of the year. 

These events have amply demonstrated why it is so important to do what we have gathered here to do: to reengage with and recommit to the core values underpinning the entire system of international protection – tolerance, solidarity and respect for human rights and human dignity.”

He accused some populist politicians and irresponsible elements of the media of exploiting feelings of fear and insecurity to scapegoat foreigners, trying to force the adoption of restrictive policies and actively spreading racist and xenophobic sentiments.

“Having been in government myself for many years, I know that no state can disregard the security of its citizens, their social and economic well-being and the cohesion of society,” he said. “States also have the right to define their own immigration policies; provided they do so in respect for human dignity and basic rights.

But all this can be done, and needs to be done, in ways that ensure protection is granted to those who need it. This means guaranteeing their access to territory, fair treatment of their asylum claims and adequate integration policies that contributes to social harmony.”

He said that despite the 1951 Convention, implementation challenges remained. Many refugees still do not enjoy the minimum standards it sets out, as many systems are marred by poor quality decision-making, disproportionately low recognition rates or a lack of access to legal services.

“In many situations, refugees do also not have freedom of movement, access to social care or permission to work. The burden of hosting large refugee populations is borne predominantly by developing countries.

They have granted asylum to 80 per cent of the world’s refugees, and more than one third of the 20 top refugee-hosting states are Least Developed Countries. As many of these states struggle to provide even basic services to their own populations, the generosity they show towards hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighbouring countries demands an effort that is disproportionate to the resources at their disposal.”


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

East Africa drought: Cholera outbreak in Kenya camp

There has been an outbreak of cholera in the world's largest refugee camp in Kenya, home to Somalis fleeing famine and conflict, the UN has said.
It may have started among new arrivals at the camp where one person has died and there are now 60 cases, it says.
The aid operation at Dadaab camp was scaled back last month after the abduction of two aid workers.
Kenya blames Somali Islamist militants for the kidnappings and has sent troops into Somalia in pursuit of them.
But the al-Shabab group, which controls most of central and southern Somalia, denies it is behind the abductions.

Nearly half a million people have fled Somalia to seek assistance in Dadaab over the last two decades.
Rains and flooding
 The UNHCR refugee agency says insecurity is still hampering aid efforts in the area, despite the deployment of 100 Kenyan policemen in the last month.
It says the situation has been exacerbated by the outbreak of the waterborne disease.
Rains ease Somali drought
The UNHCR and other aid agencies have set up cholera treatment centres in the camp for severe cases.
"Rains and flooding had affected the trucking of water to parts of the camps, and we fear some refugees resorted to using unsafe water from flooded areas," the UNHCR said in a statement.
The drought in East Africa is the worst in 60 years, with Somalia worst affected.
Some areas have been declared famine zones, and many thousands have fleeing their homes to seek assistance over the borders.
Kenya's incursion has contributed to a slowing in flow of Somalis to Dadaab, but many are still arriving in Ethiopia.
A fifth refugee camp is being set up in Ethiopia and more than 7,600 recent arrivals from Somalia are now encamped at the transit centre, the UN said
Two Spanish women working for the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Dadaab were kidnapped in October.
Other abductions include a Kenyan driver also seized from Dadaab, a British woman taken from a coastal resort and a French woman who suffered from cancer.
French authorities say she has since died in Somalia.
Somalia has not had a functioning central government for more than 20 years and has been wracked by fighting between various militias.

Al-Shabab has not previously seized foreigners from its own territory, but armed gangs on land and pirates on the sea are known for kidnappings - demanding huge ransoms for the release of their captives.
The group has vowed to retaliate against Kenya for sending troops into Somalia. It has accused the Kenyan army of killing civilians.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Asylum applications in industrialised countries jump 17 percent in first half 2011

GENEVA, 18 October 2011 (UNHCR) - Industrialized countries saw a 17 per cent increase in asylum applications in the first half of this year, with most claimants coming from countries with longstanding displacement situations. 

This is according to a report released today by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. UNHCR’s Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries, First Half 2011 report shows that 198,300 asylum applications were lodged in the period between 1 January and 30 June 2011, compared to 169,300 in the same period a year earlier.

As application rates normally peak during the second half of the year, UNHCR forecasts that 2011 may see 420,000 applications by year’s end - the highest total in eight years.

2011 has so far seen major forced displacement crises in West, North, and East Africa. The report finds related increases in asylum claims among Tunisians, Ivoirians, and Libyans (4,600, 3,300 and 2,000 claims respectively) but overall, the impact of these events on application rates in industrialized countries has been limited.

Taking the 44 countries surveyed in the report as a whole, the main countries of origin of asylum-seekers remained largely unchanged from previous surveys: Afghanistan (15,300 claims), China (11,700 claims), Serbia [and Kosovo: SC Res. 1244] (10,300 claims), Iraq (10,100 claims), and Iran (7,600 claims). 

“2011 has been a year of displacement crises unlike any other I have seen in my time as High Commissioner. 

“Their impact on asylum claims in industrialized countries seems to have been lower so far than might have been expected, as most of those who fled went to neighbouring countries. 

Nonetheless we are grateful that the industrialized states have continued to respect the right of people to have their claims to asylum heard,” said António Guterres, head of UNHCR.

By continent, Europe registered the highest number of claims with 73 per cent of all asylum applications in industrialized countries. Only Australasia saw a significant decline in applicants: 5,100 claims compared with 6,300 a year earlier.

By country, the United States had more claims (36,400) than any other industrialized nation, followed by France (26,100), Germany (20,100), Sweden (12,600), and the United Kingdom (12,200).

The Nordic region was the only part of Europe to see a fall in asylum applications. Meanwhile, in Northeast Asia applications more than doubled - 1,300 claims were lodged in Japan and South Korea compared to 600 in the first half of 2010.

The report does not show how many applications translate into the granting of asylum (ie, refugee status), nor are its findings an indicator of migration rates.

The Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries, First Half 2011 report complements UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report, issued in June each year, and which this year found that 80 percent of refugees are being hosted in developing countries.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Refugee Local Integration Program

Old Settlements: The Government of Tanzania is currently holding consultations on the way forward with regards to the planned relocation and local integration of 162,156 former Burundian Refugees from 1972 who have been naturalized.
The Relocating Citizens are sought to move from three old settlements in western Tanzania to 16 selected receiving regions where they are to receive their citizenship certificates. During a registration for relocation every naturalized household already chose its priority regions.
Now they are awaiting the notification of their final allocation. UNHCR is ready to provide local integration support at district level for the naturalized population and seeks to engage development actors.
Villages: 22,337 Burundian refugees from 1972 spontaneously settled in villages in Kigoma region have been registered and verified in 2010 for durable solutions. The process to facilitate their application for naturalization is still to be worked out. 141 voluntary repatriated to Burundi since the beginning of 2011.

Chogo Settlement: Since 2005, 1,423 Somali Bantus in Chogo Settlement, Tanga region, were also granted citizenship and were allowed to settle permanently in Tanzania. The further 1,515 Somali Bantu refugees are being processed for the same durable solution.
Budget 2011 (in million USD)
By population
Funds available
Refugees in the Camps and Mixed Migratory Flows
Local Integration for Newly Naturalized Tanzanians

Activities in the camps
Some 100,000 refugees are consolidated in 2 camps (compared to 11 in 2007) in Kigoma. UNHCR and partners provide them with protection and rights-based assistance such as shelter, food, health, education, water and sanitation.
• Voluntary Repatriation: 364,000 Burundi and 66,000 Congolese camp refugees were assisted to return home since 2002 and 2005 respectively.
So far in 2011, a total of 9 Burundi and 91 Congolese camp refugees repatriated.
• Resettlement: 2,666 refugees have been resettled in 2010 and 94 so far from the beginning of 2011.
• Asylum Seekers: A total of 1,547 individuals. Some are pending appearance before the eligibility committee while others are awaiting the final Refugee Status Determination appeal decisions.
Sourced from UNHCR Tanzania

Population of Concern

1 July ‘11
1 Jan ‘10
1 Jan’09

Burundi refugees

DRC refugees

Other nationalities


Burundi refugees


Somali refugees



Burundi refugees


Operational Highlights July and August 2011

During his four-day visit to Tanzania from 24 to 27 August 2011, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees T. Alexander Aleinikoff met with various Government officials to discuss the state of the refugee operations in Tanzania. Of special interest during these discussions was the relocation exercise for 162,000 former Burundian refugees currently settled in Rukwa and Tabora region and the need to find durable solutions for the two remaining refugee camps in northwestern Tanzania.
  • The Geneva Refugee Convention, which remains the cornerstone of refugee protection, marked its 60th anniversary on 28 July. Tanzania ratified the Convention in 1964 and has been one of the largest refugee-hosting countries for decades.
  • From 27 to 29 July, a delegation of Ambassadors to Burundi and Tanzania of the European Union, Stefan de Loecker and Tim Clarke, visited the refugee operations with UNHCR representatives. The objective was to assess the situation of the remaining 100,000 individuals who have been living in camps in Kigoma region since 1993 and of the more than 162,000 former Burundian refugees who were granted citizenship by the Tanzanian government and are living in three settlements in Rukwa and Tabora regions since 1972.
  • The extension of Mpanda Girls Secondary School was inaugurated by the Rukwa Regional Commissioner on Saturday July 9. Funded by the Japanese Government through UNHCR, the project aims at contributing to a conducive learning environment. It is also a symbol of gratitude to Rukwa region for hosting the Newly Naturalised Tanzanians from Katumba and Mishamo Settlements for nearly 40 years.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back to school in the world's largest refugee camp

The new academic year got under way on Monday in the world's largest refugee camp complex, with some 43,000 Somali children turning up for classes at Dadaab in north-east Kenya.
Some, particularly those who have arrived in the last three months, are going to school for the first time. But enrolment rates among the estimated 156,000 children of school age are relatively low in Dadaab's camps, which have 19 primary schools and six secondary schools.
Many of those entering school were among the more than 100,000 Somali refugees who have arrived in Dadaab since June after fleeing conflict, drought and famine in their homeland, bringing the refugee population here close to 470,000.
"These children are in strong need of the routine and protection that school provides," said Linda Kjosaas, the UNHCR education officer in Dadaab.
"Circumstances here are far from ideal and we should be providing them with much more, but children are happy and, talking to their parents, it is clear that they value education highly."
At the recently opened refugee site called Ifo 2, boys played football and girls skipped in the courtyard of a brand new primary school on Monday.
"Most of these children have arrived this year from Somalia," said the headmaster, Mohammed Abdullahi Bashir. "We decided to open the school two weeks earlier to give them a chance to catch up."
So far, about 1,100 children have been enrolled at this school and 11 of the school's 24 classrooms have been filled. "Every day more children are enrolling," Bashir added.
Very few of the new arrivals received any formal education in Somalia. To help them cope, UNHCR's partner, CARE, recently began an accelerated learning programme to teach them basic literacy and numeracy skills. Some 1,500 children between the ages of five and 13 benefitted from this programme.
The schools at Dadaab follow the Kenyan education curriculum. There are also private and religious schools, adult literacy centres and four vocational training centres for refugee and local youth.
With the large influx of refugees from Somalia this year, more than half of whom are children, the demand for classrooms, desks, stationery, textbooks and teachers in Dadaab has increased dramatically – at least 75 new schools will need to be built.
Currently, there is only one teacher for every 100 pupils. In some of the schools, teachers work double shifts, teaching one group of children in the morning and another in the afternoon. Most of the teachers are refugees themselves. For teenagers, opportunities to start or continue formal education are few.
Because of overcrowding, most of the refugees arriving from Somalia this year settled outside the three existing camps with little access to basic services. In recent weeks, UNHCR has been transferring these refugees to two new sites.
To date, some 30,000 refugees have been relocated to the new sites, where UNHCR is building temporary schools for 14,000 children.
By William Spindler in Dadaab, Kenya

20,000 Sudanese flee to Ethiopia to escape fighting in Blue Nile state

Around 20,000 people have fled to western Ethiopia to escape fighting in Sudan's Blue Nile state over the past week and the number continues to rise. The refugee agency has started sending emergency aid to the area.
A UNHCR assessment team returned to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Monday after visiting the Assosa region, where the refugees have been arriving.
They said the new arrivals had been crossing into Ethiopia mainly through Kurmuk and Gizen, near Sherkole, some 770 kilometres west of Addis Ababa. Others are crossing through Bamaza, further north.
"Generally, the physical state of the refugees appears good, but they need food, water and shelter. Some, in the Gizen area, are occupying schools while others are scattered in nearby villages with local families," a UNHCR spokesman said on Tuesday.
Members of the UNHCR assessment team said those willing to be relocated were being moved to an existing refugee camp at Sherkole. However, most are reluctant to go and prefer to stay near the border, hoping that fighting will die down soon and allow them to return home.
The first movements of people into the Sherkole camp started on Saturday. The camp was first opened in 1997 in response to the north-south Sudanese civil war, which formally ended in 2005. So far, 2,500 refugees have been transferred there. Blue Nile state lies on the border with the newly independent South Sudan.
UNHCR has dispatched emergency relief items to Assosa and more supplies are on the way from Addis Ababa to assist those at Sherkole and in villages along the border. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is providing water bladders and medical supplies while World Food Programme is sending food.
Sherkole, which already accommodates some 4,000 Sudanese, can take in a further 6,000 refugees. The Ethiopian government has allocated three new sites at Tongo, Bambasi and Gure, not far from Sherkole, to accommodate the new arrivals; each with a capacity to accommodate 10,000 refugees. UNHCR has started preparing the sites.
UNHCR has sent and is sending out additional staff to the area to more effectively respond to the emergency. UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres called at the weekend for an immediate halt to the hostilities in Blue Nile state.
"We need, at all costs, to stop yet one more refugee crisis in a region of the world that has been witnessing in recent months so much suffering," said Guterres.
Before the latest emergency occurred, Ethiopia had been accommodating more than 26,000 Sudanese refugees in two camps. (Sourced from UNHCR website)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

UNHCR chief visits Mogadishu, urges massive humanitarian assistance

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres urged the international community to rapidly increase aid to displaced Somalis during a landmark visit to the capital, Mogadishu.
"We are seeing here a deadly combination of conflict and drought and the misery is out of proportion to what is being done," the High Commissioner said on Wednesday during a visit to a settlement for internally displaced people (IDP) located on the grounds of the city's crumbling cathedral. They have fled drought, famine and fighting.
"The whole humanitarian community needs to scale up assistance to reach people wherever they are in Somalia," added Guterres, who was making the first visit to Mogadishu by a UNHCR chief since the 1990s.
For most of the approximately 400,000 displaced people in and around Mogadishu, aid is hard to come by and survival is a daily struggle. In the past two months, more than 100,000 Somalis, mostly livestock farmers, have fled to the capital from the drought-scorched regions of Bay, Bakool and Lower Shabelle.
During his visit, Guterres saw large numbers of Somalis camped in different parts of the city and in urgent need of lifesaving aid.
At the cathedral site he met families who had been waiting for days or weeks to receive assistance. Surviving on donations from the local population, they live a hand-to-mouth existence and many are in poor health.
At the Maajo settlement on the city outskirts, the High Commissioner visited during a UNHCR distribution of plastic sheeting and cooking utensils. One visibly exhausted woman said she had left her land in Lower Shabelle nine days earlier to seek aid in the capital after all her livestock had died because of the drought.
Clutching a two-year-old boy, she told Guterres that she had left her five other children behind with her mother. "I am very worried about them," she said, "I left our last bit of food behind, but I think now it is finished."
Speaking to journalists who accompanied him to Mogadishu, Guterres pointed to the "enormous difficulties of access and capacity" for humanitarian aid workers trying to help the needy amid insecurity.
"My main worry is if there is not enough assistance the humanitarian tragedy we are witnessing will get worse," he said.
The UN estimates that one in three Somalis is in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and a third of all children living in south-central Somalia are malnourished.
Escorted by the African Union (AU) peacekeepers, the UNHCR delegation passed buildings destroyed by warfare or damaged by bullets, rockets or artillery shells. But there was also a lot of life on the streets and many shops doing a brisk business – encouraging signs of a city attempting to recover after years of conflict and chaos.
The security situation has improved in central Mogadishu since the withdrawal earlier this month of Al Shabaab militia forces to the outskirts.
Somali Foreign Minister Mohamed Mohamud Hajji claimed that the city was fully under the control of the Transitional Federal Government and AU peacekeepers, "but we need more support for the whole country."
In a meeting with High Commissioner Guterres, Somalia's President Sharif Ahmed expressed concern about the spread of diseases such as cholera in IDP settlements. The leader of the transitional government cited the need to "immediately feed the displaced and aid the people we can't get to.”