20 June 2013

World Refugee Day 2013: Highest Number of Refugees Since Rwanda

6/20/2013: Each year on June 20, the United Nations, NGOs, and concerned humanitarians around the world unite to honor the men, women, and children who are forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict, and persecution.

Over 45 million refugees and internally displaced peoples live in constant fear – with no support system, no home, and no means these people have few places to turn. What makes the situation of refugees truly tragic is that they are innocent civilians, caught up in conflicts or bouts of persecution that they did not want or ask for. Nevertheless, they are made to flee their homes and their loved ones because of forces beyond their control.

Unfortunately, this World Refugee Day marks the eighteen year high of the number of refugees worldwide, largely due to the conflict in Syria, a major driver behind the increase. Shockingly the numbers of refugees and IDPs have not been this high since people fled genocide in Rwanda and the bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia.

SOS Children's Villages Syria
Syrian Conflict Displaces Over 5 Million People

Choosing between survival and home is the stark choice faced by 4.8 million people who now find themselves displaced in Syria, or seeking refuge elsewhere. To avert malnutrition they are forced to forage for food. The land that made Syria one of the world’s major exporters of olives now lies fallow.

For women like Asma’a, who fled Aleppo with her husband and children, support has come almost exclusively from odd jobs and emergency relief. Asma’a told SOS reporters, “I never went to school. Now that we are in the city [Damascus] I can’t work to support my husband. I don’t want this future for my children. They deserve the chance to continue their education and have a brighter future than mine.” Pointing to her nine-year-old daughter with steely determination, Asma’a said, “I will do all what I can so that she stays at school, I don’t want her to be like me.”

SOS Providing Aid to the World’s Refugees

Syria isn’t the only country where millions of people have been displaced – Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq are the top three refugee countries. Worldwide, the least developed countries are home to 81% of the world’s refugees.

This year, the UNHCR motto for World Refugee Day is “one refugee family without shelter is too many.” 45 million people, half of whom are children, are without a stable, loving home.

Fortunately, SOS and other NGOs, such as UNHCR, are on the ground to provide immediate relief to children and families in emergency situations. While emergency relief is not the primary focus of SOS, our Villages and Family Strengthening programs allow us to give communities the support they need in times of crisis, through food aid, medical care, and shelter.