Elderly Poverty in UkraineAmid the destruction that Russian troops have wreaked on Ukraine lies a forgotten demographic that has been forced to bear the brunt of Russian aggression: the elderly. As Russia continues to target healthcare facilities, apartment complexes and power plants, access to food, shelter and electricity is now elusive. Poverty among the elderly is more pernicious than it has ever been. Today, senior citizens represent one-third of all Ukrainians in need of dire assistance: 91% of elderly Ukrainians require aid to get food and are suffering from extreme cold while 75% need basic hygiene items and 34% need urgent medication for chronic illness.

A Legacy of Poverty

Elderly poverty in Ukraine is not a novel issue. Although Ukrainian citizens aged 65 and over represent 17% of the nation’s population, their plight has been largely overlooked. The collapse of the Soviet Union left in its wake a pension system that hinged on contributions from the steadily declining working class, which condemns 80% of pensioners to live below the poverty line as Ukraine’s population dropped every year.

The inaccessibility of essential services, pharmacies, hospitals and grocery stores as a direct result of the war has only exacerbated the struggle of the elders who have already been denied access to these basic necessities. Disabilities and chronic illness obstruct them from evacuating to safety, and for many the fear of burdening their families has compelled them to remain in a war zone with little to no companionship or support network as their loved ones flee the country.

Organizations Aiding Ukrainian Elders

Global initiatives are rising to the challenge. HelpAge International is a network of organizations that advocate for senior citizens around the world. The network has continued to support elderly Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine since the dawn of the war in Donbas in 2014, supplying almost 5,000 older community members with peer-to-peer support, assistive devices, hygiene kids and home-based care.

In partnership with People in Need, CARE is a global organization with a commitment to “fight global poverty and world hunger by working alongside women and girls”. The partnership resulted in the founding of the Ukraine Crisis Fund which aims to provide at least four million vulnerable civilians affected by the Russo-Ukrainian War with emergency assistance. This includes food, water and hygiene supplies, as well as cash support and psychosocial aid. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is helping elders recover shelter by helping to mend homes shelled by Russian airstrikes. Finally, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are working tirelessly to protect elderly citizens and all of Ukraine’s people. Their official fundraising account proves an effective way to improve Ukraine’s defense capability even from overseas.

Although war continues to rage, not all hope is lost. According to information services company Candid, which tracks funding data in real time, more than $1.3 billion has been donated to Ukraine through non-profits. Though it will take years for life to return to normal and even more years for elderly poverty in Ukraine to be remedied, the aid of the international community demonstrates that such change is indeed possible.

A Look Ahead

While recent airstrikes in Dnipro and Mykolaiv suggest that the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is far from over, new defense systems supplied by Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom have already boosted Ukraine’s ability to disrupt Russian missiles. Thanks to the new developments, the elderly can be better taken care of as their homeland becomes better fortified. Though poverty among the elderly continues to plague Ukraine, recent improvements to Ukraine’s national security as well as the work of NGOs and nonprofits make a future where this issue is no longer a death sentence.

– Stefania Bielkina
Photo: Flickr

Made51 artMADE51 is a global initiative created by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Free Trade Organization to showcase the creative talents and skills of refugees while giving them an opportunity to earn an income by selling their art. MADE51, which stands for Market Access, Design and Empowerment for Refugee Artisans, connects artisans with markets in order to economically empower artisans and help them rise out of poverty. U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly Clements states that “Rather than viewing millions of refugees across the globe as a burden, MADE51 sees untapped talent and potential that, if unlocked, can directly benefit” refugees, host countries and local enterprises.

How MADE51 Works

MADE51 gives refugees the opportunity to build sustainable livelihoods by selling “artisanal home decor and accessories.” Sales from MADE51 products allow “refugees to contribute to their host country’s economy” and reinforces their ties with society. Instead of seeing refugees as a burden, MADE51 gives them a platform to showcase their talent.

The initiative connects artisans with local social enterprises in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. According to Herbert Smith Freehills, “International trade in artisan crafts is now valued at over $32 billion per year, with 65% of handicraft exports coming from developing countries.”

MADE51 promotes economic inclusion using an innovative marketing solution. It identifies refugee artisans and gives them a platform to showcase their traditions and skills by helping them form partnerships with local businesses. Then, the initiative brings in its partners’ technical expertise for branding, marketing, capacity building and more.

The UNHCR also conducts assessments to make sure partner businesses follow UNHCR principles and Fair Trade standards. Fair Trade principles ensure that workers receive adequate compensation while working in a safe environment. MADE51 embodies the spirit of the UNHCR’s Global Compact on Refugees.

A lot goes into the success of the MADE51 collection. MADE51 receives help from strategic partners in product design, integrated technology, branding and marketing.

MADE51’s Impact

Other than providing a way for refugees to make a living, the initiative presents an opportunity to show solidarity with refugees. MADE51 “demonstrates the talents that refugees possess and how if given the opportunity, they can become positive contributors to societies and economies.”

MADE51 gives refugees the chance to honor and preserve their heritage and culture through art. Often the only things refugees can take with them when displaced are intangible skills, craftsmanship, knowledge and traditions. The collection shares these skills with the world while allowing refugees to “regain economic independence.” MADE51 is also a way of telling the human story of refugees rebuilding their lives from scratch.

How to Help

As a global collaborative initiative, MADE51 relies on the help of strategic partnerships. It is currently seeking partners in several areas such as retail branding, design and logistics. Individuals can also play a role in uplifting and empowering refugees by supporting the collection. For example, individuals can promote the collection on social media platforms, utilize word-of-mouth marketing and purchase items from the collection. The collection is diverse, containing protective face masks, towels, aprons, laptop sleeves, key chains, travel bags and more.

According to the UNHCR, at the close of 2020, “there were 82.4 million forcibly displaced people in the world.” More than 25% of this population was made up of refugees. MADE51 presents an inspiring tale of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people using their creative skills to rebuild their lives while simultaneously sharing and preserving their culture.

Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Health in Refugee Camps
The African country of Burundi exists between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania. Despite being slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Maryland, Burundi is home to over 10 million people. The poverty-stricken nation, independent since 1962, is currently one of the poorest countries in the world, and it relies predominantly on aid from outside donors to support its people and economy. Considering the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Burundi, maternal health in refugee camps in Burundi is a significant concern that requires attention.

The Humanitarian Crisis in Burundi

Burundi was recovering from a 10-year-long civil war when the nation descended into turmoil in 2015. The widely contended decision of President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for an unconstitutional third term in office sparked a period of intense political unrest and violence in Burundi. Occupied with dismantling resistance efforts, the government of Burundi failed to meet the basic humanitarian needs of many of its citizens. As of 2015, estimates determined that an alarming 67.3% of the population experiences undernourishment. Additionally, ongoing climate hazards continue to destroy life-sustaining farmlands and livelihoods in rural communities. Coinciding food insecurity and economic decline have also led to severe outbreaks of disease.

Burundian Refugee Camps

The instability afflicting Burundi has displaced nearly half a million people, forcing hundreds of thousands of Burundi’s citizens into refugee camps in Burundi and into neighboring countries. The quality of life in refugee camps is often poor due to overcrowding and limited resources.

Maternal Health in Refugee Camps

The influx of Burundi refugees fleeing to neighboring African countries strains pre-existing, inadequate public health infrastructures. The rise in the number of refugees seeking sanctuary in refugee camps accompanies the increased demand for health care workers and services and essential medical supplies.

The situation is particularly concerning for women as limited access to quality maternal health care in refugee camps results in alarmingly poor maternal health outcomes. Burundian women in refugee camps face high maternal mortality rates, a lack of birth preparedness and maternal services and poor treatment of obstetric complications.

Addressing the Situation

The Burundi refugee situation stands as one of the most underfunded humanitarian crises in the world. The U.N. Refugee Agency, UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations continue to fight for funding and donor support in efforts to ensure that refugees in struggling refugee camps throughout Burundi and its neighboring nations can meet their basic needs.

The U.N. Refugee Agency works specifically to improve maternal health in Burundi refugee camps. By ensuring that skilled birth attendants are available and supporting health workers with clinical training and necessary medical supplies, maternal mortality rates in refugee camps have decreased in recent years. The U.N. Refugee Agency also works to promote other central aspects of maternal health care for Burundian refugees by increasing access to care before, during and after pregnancy. Additionally, it works on granting testing and treatment of cervical cancer and fistula to women along with providing education about sexual and reproductive health and health services.

In addition to these efforts by the U.N. Refugee Agency, the United Nations Population Fund has improved maternal health in refugee camps by distributing emergency reproductive health kits, hygiene supplies and contraceptives. For Burundian refugee Chantal Uwamahoro, support from this international agency ensured the safe, healthy delivery of her baby in a fully operational maternity ward in the Mahama Refugee Camp. Uwamahoro did not expect to deliver her baby normally, as she had been walking for days to reach a camp, carrying her son on her back. However, the humanitarian efforts of the United Nations Population Fund ensured the health of both her and her baby.

Moving Forward

Though political tension and humanitarian crises endure in the nation of Burundi following the tumultuous 2020 presidential election and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, various agencies’ work to improve the quality of life in refugee camps is critical, as are efforts to better maternal health in refugee camps and bolster maternal health outcomes across the region.

Alana Castle
Photo: Flickr

refugees making masksAll over the world, artisan refugees are using their talents to make face masks. These refugees live in countries such as Mali, Germany, America, Malaysia and many more. They are running a race against time to fill the short supply of face masks in the wake of COVID-19. Refugees making face masks is one way they are giving back.

Social distancing enforcements have put a strain on refugee-owned tailoring businesses. People are unable to come into these businesses anymore as they have to stay at home. Finding a solution to this bind, refugees have turned their primary services to making masks. They are selling them to stay afloat while also helping a great cause.

Refugees Making Face Masks

At least 32,898 have come through Washington since 2003. In Seattle, the Refugee Artisan Initiative has the mission to “transform the lives of refugee and immigrant women by providing sustainable work in sewing and handcrafting products.” Usually, women in this organization, who span from countries such as Vietnam, China, Myanmar and Morocco, produce home products like potholders and fabric jewelry. The Refugee Artisan Initiative helps train refugees so they will have a way to earn a living. It also helps them assimilate by helping them find English classes.

When the crisis hit, the organization was bombarded with many messages about there being a shortage of face masks. In response to this, working refugees decided to make masks by using the multitude of fabrics they have. The Refugee Artisan Initiative then launched a GoFundMe page to support the refugees making face masks. The refugees were able to make more than 1,200 masks within five days.

Continued Efforts

In addition to face masks, the Refugee Artisan Initiative team is also making face shields. It started with a goal of creating 1,000 face shields, but after “Washington state started to pay people for finished face shields,” the goal increased to 10,000. So far, the organization has raised $39,525 towards its $45,000 goal. This money goes to supporting the refugees making the masks to keep the production going. Now, refugees around the world are making masks to help the cause and make whatever money they can to survive.

In refugee camps, social distancing is nonexistent because there are too many people in the camps and they are too close together to social distance. Refugees feel empowered to make face masks in these camps. One of these refugees is fashion designer Maombi Samil who lives in Kenya and is making face masks for the UNHCR (the U.N. Refugee Agency). He and his team were able to make 300 masks in one week. Some of these masks went to refugees who could afford them as well as staff members in need.

Refugees making face masks have helped communities tremendously. They will continue to use their talents to produce face masks as COVID-19 continues. They have been able to make a great difference in protecting people, especially those on the front-lines, against COVID-19.

Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Flickr

People Fleeing Central America
Many know Central America for its flourishing biodiversity and near-constant geological activity. This region is comprised of seven countries including Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are three countries that form the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA). Recently, the world is paying attention to the number of people fleeing Central America to surrounding areas like the U.S.

Every year, an estimated 500,000 people flee to Mexico to escape the NTCA. As involuntary witnesses to intense violence and economic instability, hundreds of thousands of citizens of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala choose to make the perilous journey north in hopes of finding safer, more peaceful living conditions. Immigration through the U.S.-Mexico border is not a recent or new development. Migration levels are increasing rapidly each year. Many asylum seekers are women and children searching for a life without senseless violence.

The three countries of the NTCA are extremely dangerous, and all rank within the top 10 for homicide rates and dangerous gang activity. In 2015, El Salvador became the world’s most violent country, rampant with gang-related violence and extortion. Though El Salvador no longer holds this title, high levels of poverty and violence continue to cause a rise in people fleeing Central America.

Poverty in Central America

The NTCA includes three countries that are among the poorest in the western hemisphere. Though Latin America has seen improvement in the distribution of wealth among its citizens, many still face the devastating effects of economic inequality that plagues the region. In 2014, 10 percent of citizens in Latin America held 71 percent of the region’s wealth. As a result, one in four people live in poverty, concentrated in rural areas. The most oppressed of this population tend to be women and indigenous peoples.

Economic migration has long been a factor surrounding discussions on immigration. People often choose to live and work in places with more prosperous economic opportunity. In rural areas of the NTCA, the need for more economic opportunity leads to people fleeing Central America. Sixty percent of people living in rural regions of the NTCA is impoverished.

Unprecedented Levels of Violence

Violence within the NTCA remains a leading cause of migration to the Mexican border. Because of the high poverty level across this region, governments do not have enough funds and are rampant with corruption. Many flee from senseless, violent crimes, including gang activity, kidnapping and brutal homicides, which law enforcement does not always punish.

Gang activity within the NTCA also causes citizens to flee. Women and children are at the highest risk for rape and kidnappings. People commit gender-based violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to coerce or intimidate others. Many children make the trek to Mexico alone because they are desperate for asylum to avoid gang recruitment.

Providing Aid to the NTCA

As witnesses to the traumatic violence raging throughout the NTCA, many people fleeing Central America are in dire need of medical and mental attention. Since 2013, Doctors Without Borders has provided more than 33,000 health consultations to those fleeing from the NTCA. Care includes treatment for victims of sexual abuse and diseases caught along the way.

Additionally, Doctors Without Borders, the International Crisis Group and the U.N. Refugee Agency have made strides urging host countries, like the U.S., to provide protection rather than detaining asylum seekers and sending them back. This strategy would reduce illegal entry and allow host countries to manage the influx of asylum seekers.

– Anna Giffels
Photo: UN

Flood in Iran

Heavy flooding due to severe rain wreaked havoc in Iran, destroying homes, infrastructure and agriculture. The flooding is the worst the country has seen in 70 years, but many in the international community have been gracious and cooperative in assisting relief efforts following the flood in Iran.

Unprecedented rainfall caused flooding that destroyed or damaged 143,000 homes and killed at least 78 people. An estimated 10 million people were affected, 2 million of which need humanitarian aid. Several countries and many humanitarian organizations are cooperating with the Iranian government to facilitate disaster relief.

Iranian Response

The Iranian government authorized allocating up to $2 billion from the country’s sovereign wealth fund. They plan to implement the funds through relief payments and reconstruction. The flooding inflicted $2.5 billion in damages to roads, bridges, homes and farmland. Around 4,400 villages across 28 of Iran’s 31 provinces were affected, and 8,700 miles of roads were damaged.

Initially, the Iranian Red Crescent Society’s (IRCS) Emergency Operations Center received meteorological alerts of severe rain and responded by circulating flood warnings. As the flooding occurred, IRCS sent helicopters and boats to rescue at-risk people threatened by rising floodwater. Many people took shelter in public evacuation centers inside of stadiums, halls and mosques.

Global Relief Efforts

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been coordinating a relief plan implemented through the IRCS. The IFRC is appealing for over 5 million Swiss francs to assist around 150,000 people for nine months.

Thus far the IRCS has provided support services to more than 257,000 people. Those services include shelter for 98,000 people, pumping water out of 5,000 flooded houses and transporting 89 people to health facilities. They also distributed thousands of tents, blankets, heaters, health sets and kitchen sets. Part of the money appealed for by the IFRC would go toward replenishing stocks of emergency items like these.

Zala Falahat, the IRCS Under Secretary for General International Affairs and International Humanitarian Law, commented, “This is the largest disaster to hit Iran in more than 15 years…For the Red Crescent, this is one of the largest humanitarian relief efforts in our history.” The IRCS effort is 18,000 relief workers strong, many of whom are volunteers.

The European Commission is also actively assisting relief efforts following the flood in Iran. They activated the European Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCPM) and provided $1.2 million in humanitarian funding. Other countries from Europe providing support include Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, the Vatican and Slovakia. The money has gone toward emergency supplies like generators, water and mud pumps, inflatable boats, hygiene kits and other necessary items.

Iraq has been especially active in providing support for people affected by the flood in Iran. The Iraq Popular Mobilization Force organized an aid convoy including six ambulances and 20 trucks of medical and food supplies. Other Middle Eastern countries have also cooperated with humanitarian efforts, including Amenia, Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan and Turkey. Russia, Japan and India have also sent relief items.

The United Nations has sent a wide range of agencies to help Iran. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is providing emergency supplies. Indrika Ratwatte, the UNHCR’s Director for Asia and the Pacific, said, “UNHCR’s efforts are in solidarity with Iran and its people who have hosted millions of refugees for four decades.” The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) estimates $1.5 billion in damages to the agricultural sector due to the flood.

Though the flood in Iran caused wide-spread damage, the international humanitarian community is springing into action to help. The government of Iran expressed gratitude toward the many global partners who provided aid. The disaster relief effort is a powerful example of international aid in action.

– Peter S. Mayer
Photo: Flickr

In a world where social media makes it easier than ever to know exactly what your friends and family, not to mention complete strangers, are doing, it should not be a luxury to know where your loved ones are. However, the very same world is also witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.

The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that there are currently 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. But those people are more than just a number. Every one of those individuals is someone’s mother, father, son or daughter. And each of them deserves to know where their family is.

After being uprooted from their homes and shuffled back and forth between camps all over the world, refugees know all too well how easy it can be to become separated from your family. Reuniting displaced refugees can be a daunting task. Many of these people do not have regular access to phones or the Internet, let alone official documents of identification.

But the Internet can be a powerful tool. Refugees United, or REFUNITE (RU), is a new kind of platform working to connect family members escaping disasters, persecutions or conflicts who have ended up in different parts of the world, sometimes completely alone. Founded in 2006 by two Danish brothers, Christopher and David Mikkelsen, REFUNITE aims to be a sort of “Google for refugee search.”

In the past, most United Nations agencies have tended to rely on the International Committee of the Red Cross, the global network of Red Cross organizations. However, due to privacy reasons the Red Cross and the United Nations are restricted from looking at one another’s databases, leading to a lot of inefficiencies.

While the Red Cross system has helped tremendously in reuniting displaced refugees with their families, the system requires individuals to apply for help from a third party to conduct the searches. The staff of national Red Cross societies does most of the tracing by responding to requests from other countries. However, without a global database, people looking for family members are forced to guess which countries to search.

“We didn’t want to be the kind of NGO that is a third party providing help to refugees,” RU founder David Mikkelsen said. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to take control of their situations and help themselves – and give NGOs another tool to help.”

RU went live in May 2010. The first words of the registration page read: “We do NOT recommend the service of Refugees United to people at risk of being traced by potential persecutors.” Once a username and password are established, a profile is created. The site stresses anonymity, reminding people “Everyone can see the information in your profile. Use nicknames, initials or information only known by your family.”

Users then input the last known location of family members as well as exclusive information that only loved ones would know, such as birthmarks or favorite foods. These steps can be left blank if desired, and the database can be searched without registering an account. But as a search platform, RU’s success depended on the power of networks: in order to be effective, REFUNITE needed to attract as many users as possible.

As of October 2017, over 750,000 refugees are registered on the platform, making it the largest missing refugee database. Today, REFUNITE operates across 17 countries with 16 technology and mobile carriers with access to around 370 million mobile subscribers. Now, United Nations organizations and refugee groups work with REFUNITE, such as the International Rescue Committee, as well as Facebook.

Getting the word out about REFUNITE is still the biggest challenge in reuniting displaced refugees. However, with the web platform available in 12 languages and text services in five, the organization is making its way to becoming accessible to refugees who speak hundreds of languages across the world.

Richa Bijlani

Photo: Flickr

South Sudanese Civil WarSouth Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011. In the six years since, the nation in northeastern Africa has fought to keep the peace, first during an armed conflict with Sudan that ended in 2015, then during a violent civil war which is still going on. These are 10 facts about the South Sudanese civil war that are important to understanding the conflict.

  1. South Sudan is the youngest nation in the world. It declared independence from Sudan in 2011, after a referendum in which 98 percent of people voted for separation from the north.
  2. The South Sudanese civil war began in December 2013, after President Salva Kiir Mayardit accused Vice-President Riek Machar of planning a failed coup.
  3. Kiir is a member of the country’s majority ethnic group, the Dinka. Vice-President Machar is Nuer, the country’s largest-second group.
  4. In 2015, the two sides signed a peace agreement to end the civil war.
  5. Violence broke out again in 2016 when the Liberation Army, loyal to Kiir, fought against Machar’s soldiers.
  6. During the South Sudanese civil war, at least 50,000 people have been killed, more than two million have become refugees in other countries and around five million South Sudanese have faced severe food shortages.
  7. Two million South Sudanese have fled the country because of the civil war. Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan are the principal nations where the refugees have gone.
  8. 62 percent of all South Sudanese refugees are under 18 years old.
  9. The United Nations projects that six million people, about 50 percent of South Sudan’s population, will be severely food insecure in 2017.
  10. Inside the country, where the South Sudanese civil war still continues, 4.9 million people need urgent food assistance.

Violence persists in the northeastern African nation. The South Sudanese civil war has increased unemployment and famine rates. In addition, nearby countries have opened their borders to the South Sudanese, overcrowding refugee camps and making the delivery of aid harder. However, nonprofit organizations and global institutions, primarily the U.N. Refugee Agency, are working to end the conflict in South Sudan and provide its people with basic need like food and shelter.

Dario Ledesma

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in KenyaKalobeyei is a town located in the northwestern part of Kenya that was built by the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) along with the local government of Turkana county. The town was designed as a location where refugees could become integrated with the local community and where this integration would benefit shared services and markets, thereby reducing the cost for Western aid donors. Unfortunately, this has not exactly worked out as planned for refugees in Kenya.

There have been quite a few issues that have risen since the town’s creation. The most prominent of these issues is that Kalobeyei was established just as South Sudan’s civil war greatly intensified, causing many refugees in Kenya to arrive with hardly anything more than the clothes on their backs, as well as without the proper resources that would help them make an attempt at a new life.

The World Food Programme provides $14 per month as a cash allowance to each refugee, which is supposed to cover up to 80 percent of an individual’s needs in the town. This may not be enough to live off of due to the current conditions these refugees are left in after the civil war, especially since Kalobeyei is hosting nearly 40,000 refugees, including individuals from places such as South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.

There have also been many complaints from the refugees in Kenya who are currently residing in Kalobeyei. Refugees say that little to nothing that they were promised has been offered in the town. They have found themselves in an isolated camp where both food and water are in short supply and that residents are at the mercy of thievery that goes on within Kalobeyei. One resident of the town—an Ethiopian refugee—said, “When they brought us here, we were told that the place would be like a community village with many development projects, a school, clinic, market and almost everything close by,” but there is close to nothing within the settlement that is within walking distance.

When the UNHCR’s office in Kenya heard of this story, communications director Yvonne Ndege had a drastically different description of what life was like residents of Kalobeyei saying that the town was in fact not built in a remote area and had markets, water tanks and primary schools on-site, as well as stating that “there is no heightened security situation or security threat at Kalobeyei or Kakuma.” She went on to explain that refugees had the option to visit the camp before relocating and that perhaps they “may have had different expectations,” despite having viewed Kalobeyei in advance.

Whatever the case may be, it is wise to be empathetic and understanding toward refugees in Kenya when it comes to these situations—having to relocate yourself and your family is never easy, and struggling in a new environment does not make anything less difficult. Hopefully, the UNHCR will empathize and refugees in Kenya will be able to resolve and overcome the issues with Kalobeyei, for the town is meant to only do good.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Flickr

 Serbia Refugees
From 2015 through March 2016 refugees from countries including Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and more traveled through Serbia on their way to Hungary and Croatia. The closing of the border led many people to think that the refugee crisis was over, but refugees from Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to arrive in Serbia daily. Below are 10 facts about Serbia refugees and the unprecedented crisis.

  1. Between May 2015 and March 2016, over 920,000 refugees from Greece, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq traveled through Serbia as they made their way to Hungary and Croatia.
  2. About 20.1 million euros in humanitarian aid from the EU helped provide emergency assistance at 16 government shelters. These shelters provide services including medical care, family-friendly shelter, clothing, food, water and security. Currently, aid is being used to improve living conditions at shelters. Previously, Serbia received 24.5 million euros in aid toward the refugee crisis.
  3. Winter weather and freezing temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius endanger the health and lives of as many as 1,500 refugees living in the streets or unheated temporary shelters. Sadly, 60% are unaccompanied minors. Many people are afraid to go to official shelters due to concerns that they will be deported.
  4. The Serbian government, the U.N. Refugee Agency, and other humanitarian agencies made room in heated shelters for 5,000 more beds.
  5. The Serbian government opened additional accommodations in mid-January, enabling 400 refugees, including women and children, to move from unsanitary improvised shelters to a clean shelter – 85% of refugees are now living in one of 17 government shelters.
  6. Humanitarian organizations are prohibited from helping refugees outside official shelters. A group of international volunteers called “Hot Food Idomeni” has found a way to help. They serve hot soup, ensuring that refugees living outside official shelters get a least one meal a day.
  7. The EU civil protection mechanism, along with 10 Member States, provided 246,000 relief items to Serbia.
  8. The government registered 815,000 refugees in 2015. There was a dramatic drop in the number of refugees arriving in Serbia after the closure of the “Western Balkan migration route” in March 2016.
  9. Since the closure of the “Western Balkan migration route” refugees have been stranded in Serbia. Many have stayed in one of 16 reception centers located in the west and south. Refugees are free to travel around the country. They can even apply for asylum.
  10. After the closure of the migration route, a small number of refugees from Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continued to arrive increasing the number of refugees from 2,000 in March 2016 to 7,550 in December 2016.

People flee war-torn countries hoping to find safe refuge within the borders of their neighbor. These 10 facts about Serbia refugees reveal what these brave refugees endure in their journey to find their safe refuge.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr