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Fuji Optical mark 20 years of visionary partnership

Partners, 11 June 2004

GENEVA, June 11 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency today commemorated 20 years of partnership with Fuji Optical, which runs a programme that has helped tens of thousands of refugees around the world to improve their vision.

On Friday, High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers met with the President of Fuji Optical, Dr. Akio Kanai, in Geneva to express his gratitude for the company's long-term support towards refugees.

"The missions give us a tremendous sense of satisfaction," said Dr Kanai. "It opens a new world to us. Staff come back thinking they have to work harder to do more for the refugees next time. Money cannot buy that valuable experience."

Dr. Kanai and his team have just returned from a week-long mission to Armenia, where they tested the vision of 1,022 refugees and donated 3,000 pairs of eye glasses, ophthalmic frames, hearing-aid units and medical equipment for vision.

"Some of them have never had the experience of seeing clearly," Dr. Kanai's son, Hiromasa, said of the recent mission. "When I gave them glasses for the first time, they started to cry, and hugged and kissed me. The reaction was immediate."

This operation is the latest in the long-standing relationship between UNHCR and Fuji Optical. The company has been donating optometric equipment and training medical staff since 1984, beginning with assistance to Indo-Chinese refugees in Thailand. After 10 years of support to refugees in Thailand, annual Vision Aid Missions have assisted the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal and the Azerbaijani refugees in Armenia.

In all three countries, Fuji Optical replicated its mission on an annual basis until the needs for vision screening were exhausted. The repeat missions also help to build capacity with a local non-governmental organisation over time.

Friday's meeting at UNHCR headquarters was focused on identifying a new location for subsequent Vision Aid Missions.

Between 1984 and June 2004, a total of 94,187 pairs of glasses were donated. This in-kind contribution represents over $1 million worth of goods and services. Thousands of refugees in several countries are now able to realise everyday tasks that used to be impossible to accomplish due to poor vision.

For years, Hamlet Mirzoyan thought his son was blind. But when the Fuji Optical team visited Armenia, the boy was diagnosed with strong myopia, a condition that was treated with prescription glasses sent from Japan.

"What you have done for us and that you usually do for mankind is immeasurable," wrote Mirzoyan in a letter of appreciation to Dr Kanai. "I am sure that everyone you help, be they in Thailand or Poland, Bhutan or Armenia, will always remember you, Doctor, dedicatedly providing humanitarian services to poor people all over the world."

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UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Since 2006, renewed conflict and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province has forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes – the country's worst displacement crisis since the formal end of the civil war in 2003. In total, there are now some 800,000 people displaced in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

Hope for the future was raised in January 2008 when the DRC government and rival armed factions signed a peace accord. But the situation remains tense in North Kivu and tens of thousands of people still need help. UNHCR has opened sites for internally displaced people (IDPs) and distributed assistance such as blankets, plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans, firewood and other items to the four camps in the region. Relief items have also been delivered to some of the makeshift sites that have sprung up.

UNHCR staff have been engaged in protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs and other populations at risk across North Kivu.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Posted on 28 May 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

The UN refugee agency has just renewed its appeal for funds to help meet the needs of tens of thousands of Malian refugees and almost 300,000 internally displaced people. The funding UNHCR is seeking is needed, among other things, for the provision of supplementary and therapeutic food and delivery of health care, including for those suffering from malnutrition. This is one of UNHCR's main concerns in the Mbera refugee camp in Mauritania, which hosts more than 70,000 Malians. A survey on nutrition conducted last January in the camp found that more than 13 per cent of refugee children aged under five suffer from acute malnutrition and more than 41 per cent from chronic malnutrition. Several measures have been taken to treat and prevent malnutrition, including distribution of nutritional supplements to babies and infants, organization of awareness sessions for mothers, increased access to health facilities, launch of a measles vaccination campaign and installation of better water and sanitation infrastructure. Additional funding is needed to improve the prevention and response mechanisms. UNHCR appealed last year for US$144 million for its Mali crisis operations in 2013, but has received only 32 per cent to date. The most urgent needs are food, shelter, sanitation, health care and education.

The photographs in this set were taken by Bechir Malum.

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp