As food prices rise, refugees in Jamaica look to their own back yard

News Stories, 8 July 2008

© UNHCR/G.O'Hara
Backyard abundance: Ugandan asylum seeker, Jewel Praise Eden, proudly displays the bounty of the community garden in Kingston, Jamaica.

KINGSTON, Jamaica July 8 (UNHCR) The impact of rising food prices is being felt in households around the world. This is particularly true in the Caribbean Islands, where several countries are completely dependent on food imports despite the region's reputation as a tropical paradise.

Not so Jamaica, where a national holiday was recently marked with the slogan, "We Eat What We Grow." In a country blessed with abundant fertile soil and a people accustomed to working it, a group of refugees and asylum seekers is adding to the island's bounty.

In the back yard of a house rented by a faith-based charity, refugees and asylum seekers from countries as diverse and distant as Uganda and Myanmar are producing a cornucopia of vegetables blazing with colour as the rainy season begins in earnest.

Six months ago it was a very different picture. The plot of land was a tangle of overgrown weeds and creepers. Armed with little more than shovels and determination, and with an initial seed donation provided by the Justice Commission, a UNHCR partner, the group was soon reaping the rewards of their hard work, harvesting lettuce, tomatoes, pumpkin, corn and onions on a regular basis.

Ugandan asylum seeker, Jewel Praise Eden, proudly displayed the garden to a UNHCR visitor on mission recently to Jamaica. "I am proud of the fact that we are producing our own food. It is hard work but it so satisfying to see the vegetables grow," she said.

Clover Graham, UNHCR's honorary liaison in Jamaica, is one of the recipients of the garden's bounty. "Some weeks there is too much for the household to consume and that is when I get to take home some of the extra for my own table. The refugees are happy to be able to give something back to those that have helped them in Jamaica," said Graham.

The success of the back yard operation has not gone unnoticed. A new partner organization of the UN refugee agency the Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights is now gearing up to supply seeds, tools and gardening gloves to other refugees in Kingston who have a patch of soil they could grow on as well as to those living in other locations around the island.

By Grainne O'Hara in Kingston, Jamaica

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Food and Nutrition

UNHCR strives to improve the nutritional status of all the people it serves.

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

A funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations in refugee camps in eastern Chad by up to 60 per cent. As a result, Sudanese refugees in 13 camps in the east now receive about 850 calories per day, down from the minimum ration of 2,100 calories daily they used to get. The refugees are finding it difficult to cope. Clinics in the area report a significant spike in malnutrition cases, with rates as high as 19.5 per cent in Am Nabak camp.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

In the meantime, the refugees experiencing ration cuts have few options. Poor soil quality, dry conditions and little access to water mean they can't plant supplemental crops as refugees in the less arid south of Chad are able to do. To try to cope, many refugee women in eastern Chad are leaving the camps in search of work in surrounding towns. They clean houses, do laundry, fetch water and firewood and work as construction labourers. Even so, they earn very little and often depend on each other for support. In the town of Iriba, for example, some 50 refugee women sleep rough each night under a tree and share their some of their meagre earnings to pay for a daily, communal meal.

They are also subject to exploitation. Sometimes, their temporary employers refuse to pay them at the end of the day. And some women and girls have resorted to prostitution to earn money to feed their families.

Ration cuts can have an impact far beyond health, reverberating through the entire community. It is not uncommon for children to be pulled out of school on market days in order to work. Many refugees use a portion of their food rations to barter for other essentials, or to get cash to pay school fees or buy supplies for their children. Small business owners like butchers, hairdressers and tailors - some of them refugees - also feel the pinch.

WFP supplies food to some 240,500 Sudanese refugees in the camps of eastern Chad. Many have been in exile for years and, because of their limited opportunities for self-sufficiency, remain almost totally dependent on outside help. The ration cuts have made an already difficult situation much worse for refugees who were already struggling.

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

Emergency food distribution in South Sudan's Jonglei state

Humanitarian organizations in South Sudan are working to deliver emergency assistance to some of the tens of thousands of people displaced by armed conflict in Jonglei state. Most of those uprooted have fled into the bush or have walked for days to reach villages away from the fighting. Others have journeyed even greater distances to find sanctuary in the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. Gaining access to those affected in an insecure and isolated area has been a significant challenge for aid workers. Since mid-July, an airlift has been providing food supplies to families living in two previously inaccessible villages and where humanitarian agencies have established temporary bases. As part of the "cluster approach" to humanitarian emergencies, which brings together partners working in the same response sector, UNHCR is leading the protection cluster to ensure the needs of vulnerable individuals among the displaced are addressed.

Emergency food distribution in South Sudan's Jonglei state

Afghanistan: The Reality of Return

The UN refugee agency and the World Food Programme join forces to improve the lives of Afghan returnees in the east of the country

After more than two decades of war, Afghanistan faces enormous recovery needs. The rugged, landlocked nation remains one of the poorest in the world, with more than half its 25 million citizens living below the poverty line. Furthermore, the rise in global food prices has affected more than 2.5 million Afghans, who can no longer afford to buy staples such as wheat flour.

Since 2002, more than 5 million Afghans have gone back home, with a large proportion returning to the eastern provinces. The returnees face huge challenges, such as insecurity, food shortages, insufficient shelter, unemployment and a lack of access to basic services.

UNHCR and WFP are working in partnership to help returnees in Afghanistan to rebuild their lives, particularly in the east. Programmes such as skills training, micro hydroelectricity projects and food distribution have helped Afghans get back on their feet and work towards creating sustainable livelihoods.

Posted on 18 September 2008

Afghanistan: The Reality of Return

Lebanon: Fadia's StoryPlay 

video

Lebanon: Fadia's Story

A former nurse, Fadia found life as a refugee in Lebanon to be especially difficult without employment. She counts herself lucky to be living in a shelter paid for by aid agencies, but food and other necessities are harder to come by. Fadia's is one of 145,000 Syrian families in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq headed by women. Poverty, isolation and fear of exploitation are just some of the hardships they face.
Joint Appeal: Help Sought as Food Shortages Threaten Refugees in AfricaPlay 

video

Joint Appeal: Help Sought as Food Shortages Threaten Refugees in Africa

The World Food Programme and the United Nations refugee agency seek urgent funding to help 800,000 refugees in Africa affected by food shortages. Cuts in food rations threaten to worsen already unacceptable levels of acute malnutrition, stunting and anaemia, particularly in children.
South Sudan: Food Security Play 

video

South Sudan: Food Security

Jacob is plowing 20 kilometers far from his own home town, Bor, after having to abandon it due to the ongoing fighting in South Sudan. Now in Mingkaman camp,as a displaced person, this land he plows is all he has after losing farm and cattle back home