UNHCR and Danish Refugee Council pledge closer collaboration

News Stories, 26 February 2007

© UNHCR/S.Hopper
High Commissioner António Guterres signs a cooperation agreement with Andrew Kamm, secretary general of the Danish Refugee Council.

GENEVA, February 26 (UNHCR) The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), one of the top non-governmental organisations working for refugees and displaced people worldwide, signed a formal agreement on Monday to strengthen their existing cooperation and support each other's work.

"This memorandum of understanding between our two organisations will help us build on our respective strengths and capacities, improving efficiency in key areas of refugee protection and humanitarian action," said High Commissioner António Guterres, on signing the agreement at UNHCR's Geneva headquarters.

The agreement will pave the way for more effective cooperation in the areas of refugee protection, advocacy and emergency response. It will also strengthen existing collaboration in the areas of transport, logistics, emergency shelter and the deployment of personnel to field operations.

"UNHCR and DRC share a commitment to protect and assist refugees and internally displaced persons and to look for solutions to their plight, and the agreement reflects the growing cooperation between them at the field level," said Andrew Kamm, secretary general of the Danish organisation.

Established in 1956 following the flight to Denmark of 1,500 Hungarian refugees, the Danish Refugee Council is a private, humanitarian organisation which works to protect people affected by conflict around the world, as well as helping refugees in Denmark. It implements projects in 30 countries and has a budget for this year of US$78.8 million (approximately 60 million euros).

The two organisations already cooperate in more than 20 countries in areas such as assistance for voluntary repatriation and local settlement, legal assistance, community services, shelter and infrastructure.

During the course of last year, DRC deployed 40 staff to work with UNHCR as part of an agreement to enhance the agency's capacity to assist and protect refugees as well as other persons of concern in emergency situations. This year to date, eight DRC staff members have been seconded to UNHCR.

With the signing of the memorandum of understanding, however, the long history of close cooperation between UNHCR and DRC is set to enter a new phase.

Last May, UNHCR signed a similar agreement with the Norwegian Refugee Council. At the time, both parties expressed their commitment to extend their partnership to other organisations.

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Jihan's Story

Like millions, 34-year-old Jihan was willing to risk everything in order to escape war-torn Syria and find safety for her family. Unlike most, she is blind.

Nine months ago, she fled Damascus with her husband, Ashraf, 35, who is also losing his sight. Together with their two sons, they made their way to Turkey, boarding a boat with 40 others and setting out on the Mediterranean Sea. They hoped the journey would take eight hours. There was no guarantee they would make it alive.

After a treacherous voyage that lasted 45 hours, the family finally arrived at a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, called Milos - miles off course. Without support or assistance, they had to find their own way to Athens.

The police detained them for four days upon their arrival. They were cautioned to stay out of Athens, as well as three other Greek cities, leaving them stranded.

By now destitute and exhausted, the family were forced to split up - with Ashraf continuing the journey northwards in search of asylum and Jihan taking their two sons to Lavrion, an informal settlement about an hour's drive from the Greek capital.

Today, Jihan can only wait to be reunited with her husband, who has since been granted asylum in Denmark. The single room she shares with her two sons, Ahmed, 5, and Mohammad, 7, is tiny, and she worries about their education. Without an urgent, highly complex corneal transplant, her left eye will close forever.

"We came here for a better life and to find people who might better understand our situation," she says, sadly. "I am so upset when I see how little they do [understand]."

Jihan's Story

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

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