June 20th marks World Refugee Day. According to a new report from the United Nations, in 2017, the number of refugees and people displaced by conflict and disaster worldwide reached a record high of 68.5 million. One person was displaced every two seconds in the past year.
The vast majority of the countries hosting refugees are among the world’s least developed. Refugee status is rarely temporary: prolonged conflicts and poverty make the dream of returning home a distant one for most refugees.
Action Against Hunger works with refugees, displaced people, and the communities that host them. We are responding to the world's most severe refugee crises, including the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh, the Syrian crisis, and the emergency in South Sudan that is driving huge numbers of refugees into Uganda. We are meeting the needs of vulnerable people displaced by conflict within South Sudan, as well as in Yemen, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, northeast Nigeria, and Somalia. In all these places and more, we provide lifesaving treatment to malnourished children, improve access to safe water and sanitation among local communities, expand access to food and income, and when possible, we offer mental health “first aid” for refugees who have experienced trauma.
Action Against Hunger is proud to partner with refugees. Refugees are parents and grandparents who risk their lives to protect their children from violence and ensure they are fed. Every day, refugees and displaced people teach us about dignity. They show us the best of humanity. They are innovators, entrepreneurs, leaders, dreamers, friends. They constantly inspire us. On World Refugee Day, we are happy to share some of their stories.
The conflict in Syria has forced 5.6 million people to flee the country as refugees: an additional 6.6 million have been forcibly displaced within the country.
Sameera used to have a comfortable life in Syria, with her husband and their two children. When the Syrian war began, they fled into Jordan with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. She considers herself lucky, saying, “We escaped death.”
After they arrived in Jordan, Sameera’s husband had a stroke and she could not find work. “I was finding it hard to buy bread,” she said. She became involved with Action Against Hunger’s cash-for-work program, which employs Syrian refugees and vulnerable members of the community and pays them to clean up waste and rubbish. The participating Syrian refugees are employed by Action Against Hunger through a one-year work permit and they are paid a daily wage.
Sameera was one of the first women to participate: “I just wanted to earn an income. When people asked me, I would tell them I collect waste. There is no shame whatsoever in working.”
Sameera and other women refugees are now working with Action Against Hunger in a livelihoods program where they transform the trash they find, like discarded plastic and newspaper, into tote bags, bowls, lampshades, and other crafts that they sell to earn additional income. Action Against Hunger’s program not only gives women refugees a source of revenue, but also provides an important source of moral support and community.
Sameera’s 15-year-old daughter, Sajeda, says, “We were facing hard times, but she was a very strong mom who was able to fight for us. I am very proud of her.”
In 2017, Action Against Hunger provided humanitarian assistance to 1.6 million people inside Syria, as well as to 46,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, and 243,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
NEW BEGINNINGS IN UGANDA: FLORENCE'S STORY
Uganda is currently home to more than 1.4 million refugees: an estimated one million of these have entered the country over the past 18 months alone. According to the UN, Uganda is now the eighth largest refugee-hosting country in the world. The Ugandan government welcomes refugees, giving them small plots of land, integrating them with local communities, and permitting them to work and start businesses.
In Uganda, Action Against Hunger works to enable refugees to rebuild their lives and overcome hunger. In 2017, Action Against Hunger’s programs benefited 597,390 people across the country, most of whom are refugees.
Two of the refugees that Action Against Hunger has assisted are Florence Awate and her baby, Innocent. When their village in South Sudan became engulfed by violence and food supplies ran out, Florence walked for days to find refuge in Uganda. Along the way, her life was in danger many times, and she witnessed horrific attacks. Now, she is working hard to start over and keep her baby safe and healthy. Action Against Hunger is educating mothers like Florence about how to feed and care for their young children to prevent malnutrition and ensure that they grow up healthy and strong.