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UNHCR signs agreement with Saudi Red Crescent Society

News Stories, 18 April 2007

© UNHCR/S.Hopper
Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah Al Saud (with tie and yellow shirt) examines a lightweight family tent in the atrium of UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

GENEVA, April 18 (UNHCR) Saudi Arabia's Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah Al Saud, president of the Saudi Red Crescent Society, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres signed an agreement on Wednesday to strengthen cooperation on joint implementation of humanitarian projects. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) also calls for joint training programmes in relation to emergency preparedness and capacity-building.

"We have seen the importance of the Red Crescent movements in many humanitarian crises around the world and today we are particularly pleased to strengthen our meaningful cooperation with the Saudi Red Crescent Society," Guterres said as he signed the MOU.

The High Commissioner had invited Prince Faisal to Geneva last February during a visit to Saudi Arabia. While in Riyadh, Guterres had stressed the need for a strong partnership between UNHCR and the Muslim world and expressed his particular wish to boost ties with Saudi Arabia by creating strategic, political, financial and humanitarian partnerships.

Prince Faisal showed his commitment to the newly signed agreement by extending his stay in Geneva by a day to meet with UNHCR staff, develop a plan of action and immediately create more permanent channels of communication.

"Let's not wait until a disaster happens," Prince Faisal said. "Let's meet and think and let's start working together now."

The Saudi Red Crescent Society (SRCS) was established in 1964 as a continuation of the Charitable Relief Society. The aims of the SRCS include providing ambulance services, relief aid and carrying out humanitarian work under international treaties signed by SRCS. The society became the 91st member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Cooperation between UNHCR and the SRCS has expanded in recent years. In 2000, the SRCS participated in the UNHCR-organised Partners in Action regional meeting in Tunisia and acted as regional coordinator for Gulf non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

In 2000, UNHCR's office in Riyadh organised an Emergency Management Training Programme in Riyadh in cooperation with SRCS. SRCS is also an active member of the Gulf NGOs Network (GNN) and the main channel for Saudi governmental and non-governmental humanitarian assistance and relief aid.

Between 2000 and 2006, SRCS helped UNHCR's emergency and rehabilitation projects in Pakistan, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia and more recently in Lebanon. SRCS cash contributions to UNHCR programmes in 2006 reached $849,038.

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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.

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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.

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UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

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