The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) marks another sombre World Refugee Day tomorrow (20 June) as renewed violence in Iraq has driven half a million people from their homes to join an estimated 45.2 million people forcibly displaced around the world, according the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
“The world already faces three crises of devastating proportions that have turned millions of schoolchildren, farmers and shopkeepers into refugees,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, a day after visiting the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. “As Iraq now violently unravels, the world needs to remember that conflicts like Iraq, Syria, South Sudan and Central African Republic not only destroy the lives of those who flee but also deplete the often limited resources of host communities who take them in. Today provides another opportunity to remind the world of these challenges.”
Cousin was in Zaatari camp to hear stories from some of the 85,000 people living there while still waiting for an end to the violence in Syria.
Working with the UNHCR and other partners, WFP assisted 4.2 million refugees and 8.9 million internally displaced people around the world in 2013. The majority of those refugees and displaced people were from ongoing crises in Syria, South Sudan and Central African Republic (C.A.R.).
“As the newly displaced join the ranks of those already forced from their homes by conflict or natural disaster, no one should feel alone and without help. No refugee should ever feel forgotten,” Cousin said. “Together with our colleagues at UNHCR, partner organizations and donor governments around the world, we are diligently responding to their urgent and life stabilizing needs.”
Refugees fleeing Syria
Today, over 2.7 million Syrians have found refuge in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. To provide for their families, individual refugees face increasing hurdles. One way WFP eases the burden on both refugees and host communities is by providing food vouchers redeemable in local shops. For Rana El-Boqaa, a Syrian refugee and mother of four in Egypt, the vouchers provide much-needed nutrition and food support: “We don’t have to worry about saving up money to buy food. Whatever money we manage to get we spend on other vital essentials such as medication.”
Funding shortfalls in South Sudan
Despite facing a US$475 million six-month funding shortfall for emergency operations in South Sudan, WFP provides a life-line to more than 1 million internally displaced and hard-to-reach people within the country. Among them is Achuol Yaae who fled her home with her four children when violence erupted. After a five-day walk, Achuol and her kids made it to Mingkaman on the White Nile, where WFP and partner organizations provide food and other assistance. “WFP is giving us food, which is fine, but for how long will they continue feeding us?” Achuol asked. “What we want is peace so we can go back to our home, plant our own food and have our children drink milk.”
Crisis in C.A.R.
Violence in C.A.R. began in December and continues uprooting more people every day, with more than 226,000 sheltering in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo. Up to 2,000 C.A.R. refugees flee to Cameroon every week, joining more than 100,000 already there. They arrive exhausted, hungry and often sick – and unfortunately too often without many loved ones who did not survive the journey. Many refugees arrive fighting the life-threatening effects of malnutrition, with up to 30 percent of young children acutely malnourished. WFP distributes specialized nutritious products for all children under five years of age.