UN refugee chief cites pressing needs as those uprooted tops 42 million

News Stories, 16 June 2009

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UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres releases the annual '2008 Global Trends' report at the National Press Club in Washington.

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, June 16 (UNHCR) The UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres urged the international community on Tuesday not to allow the global economic crisis to adversely affect humanitarian aid.

Speaking in Washington's National Press Club at the launch of his UN refugee agency's annual report on refugee trends, Guterres said the situation for humanitarian agencies was "worrisome," and called for greater support on the part of donor countries. "The amounts needed to rescue people," he said, "are less than what is needed to rescue banks."

UNHCR's annual "2008 Global Trends" report shows the number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide stood at 42 million at the end of last year amid a sharp slowdown in repatriation and more prolonged conflicts resulting in protracted displacement. The total includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million people uprooted within their own countries.

While highlighting the pressing need for greater funding of humanitarian organizations by wealthy nations, Guterres also cited the demands being placed on countries which are hosting large refugee populations, most of which are in the developing world.

The amounts needed to rescue people are less than what is needed to rescue banks.

High Commissioner António Gutteres

"The overwhelming burden of displacement is borne by developing countries," said Guterres. "Eighty percent of refugees are in the developing world. Generosity and wealth are not proportional to each other."

Although the overall total of 42 million uprooted people at year's end represents a drop of about 700,000 over the previous year, new displacement in 2009 not reflected in the annual report has already more than offset the decline.

Among recent and continuing displacement crises, Guterres cited Pakistan, where up to 2 million people have been uprooted by violence between the government and militant forces this year, as "the most challenging protection crisis since Rwanda [in the mid-1990s]."

"The failure to deliver proper humanitarian assistance to the displaced in Pakistan," he said, could have serious security implications.

Refugees and IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR 1999-2008 (end-year)

About 2 million refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) were able to return home in 2008, according to the UNHCR report, a decline from the previous year. It was the second-lowest repatriation total in 15 years and, in part, reflects the deteriorating security conditions in countries such as Afghanistan and Sudan.

The UNHCR report shows that the number of people the agency cares for globally stood at 10.5 million refugees at the end of 2008 while an additional 14.4 million people were uprooted within their own countries.

In recent years, UNHCR has increasingly been tasked under the UN's humanitarian reform process with providing help to the internally displaced, in addition to its traditional mandate of protecting and assisting refugees who have crossed international borders. Since 2005, the agency has seen the number of IDPs it cares for more than double.

By Tim Irwin In Washington D.C., United States





UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.


The number of refugees of concern to UNHCR stood at 13 million in mid-2014, up from a year earlier.

UNHCR Statistical Yearbooks

These yearbooks follow major trends in displacement, protection and solutions.

UNHCR Statistical Online Population Database

Standardized data on UNHCR's population of concern at country, regional, and global levels.


Numbers are important in the aid business and UNHCR's statisticians monitor them daily.


UNHCR advocates fair and efficient procedures for asylum-seekers

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New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Since January 2014, a funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 60 per cent in refugee camps in southern Chad. The reduction comes as thousands of refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in the south - more than 14,000 of them since the beginning of 2014. Many arrive sick, malnourished and exhausted after walking for months in the bush with little food or water. They join some 90,000 other CAR refugees already in the south - some of them for years.

The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

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.

Photojournalist Corentin Fohlen and UNHCR Public Information Officer Céline Schmitt visited CAR refugees in southern Chad to document their plight and how they're trying to cope.

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Refugees prepare for winter in Jordan's Za'atari camp

Life in Jordan's Za'atari refugee camp is hard. Scorching hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter, this flat, arid patch of land near the border with Syria was almost empty when the camp opened in July. Today, it hosts more than 31,000 Syrians who have fled the conflict in their country.

The journey to Jordan is perilous. Refugees cross the Syrian-Jordan border at night in temperatures that now hover close to freezing. Mothers try to keep their children quiet during the journey. It is a harrowing experience and not everyone makes it across.

In Za'atari, refugees are allocated a tent and given sleeping mats, blankets and food on arrival. But as winter approaches, UNHCR is working with partners to ensure that all refugees will be protected from the elements. This includes upgrading tents and moving the most vulnerable to prefabricated homes, now being installed.

Through the Norwegian Refugee Council, UNHCR has also distributed thousands of winter kits that include thermal liners, insulated ground pads and metal sheeting to build sheltered kitchen areas outside tents. Warmer clothes and more blankets will also be distributed where needed.

Refugees prepare for winter in Jordan's Za'atari camp

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Each week 10,000 Muslims cross into eastern Cameroon to escape the violence consuming the Central African Republic (CAR). Many new arrivals report that they have been repeatedly attacked as they fled. The anti-Balaka militiamen have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing people to find alternate routes through the bush. Many are walking two to three months to reach Cameroon, arriving malnourished and bearing wounds from machetes and gunshots.

UNHCR and its partners have established additional mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. The UN refugee agency is also supporting public health centres that have been overwhelmed by the number of refugees and their condition.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas, bringing them to new sites at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received nearly 70,000 refugees from CAR, adding to the 92,000 who fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

UNHCR staff members Paul Spiegel and Michele Poletto recently travelled to eastern Cameroon and have the following photos to share from their iPhone and camera.

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

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