UNHCR enters online fund-raising challenge for US$50,000 prize

News Stories, 8 October 2009

© UNHCR/E.Hockstein
Helping Somalis: Newly arrived refugees wait to register in Dadaab, Kenya. The flow of arrivals shows no signs of slowing.

GENEVA, October 8 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency, as part of its growing use of social media, has entered a special fund-raising challenge on a Facebook platform that could net US$50,000 to help forcibly displaced Somalis.

Charities and humanitarian organizations taking part in "America's Giving Challenge," which was launched Wednesday on Facebook Causes, have 30 days to gain the most individual donors.

"We will encourage our supporters on social media to help us raise money for the tens of thousands who have been forced from their homes in Somalia by donating and asking friends, family and colleagues to join in," said Suzanne Tremblay, the UNHCR fund-raising officer who specializes in appeals.

Somalia has been plagued by violence for almost two decades. Hundreds of thousands have fled overseas or sought refuge in other parts of their country. Each year, tens of thousands risk their lives by crossing the Gulf of Aden on smugglers' boats to reach Yemen.

Under America's Giving Challenge, the organization that inspires the most people to donate to their cause over the 30 days, regardless of the dollar amount, will receive the top prize of US$50,000. A second prize is worth US$25,000, while causes placing third to seventh will each get US$10,000. The challenge, sponsored by The Case Foundation and Parade magazine, will also be giving out daily prizes.

UNHCR is asking donors to help displaced Somalis by contributing through its Gimme Shelter Cause on Facebook. This is linked to the Gimme Shelter campaign launched almost a year ago with the help of American actor Ben Affleck and The Rolling Stones to raise funds and awareness about the forcibly displaced around the world.

The Gimme Shelter Cause was launched on Facebook earlier this year and has raised almost $60,000 from 135,000 members in the past six months. UNHCR invites all Facebook members to contribute to the Gimme Shelter Cause and help the refugee agency be among the top non-profit Causes during October.

Join the Cause: www.causes.com/refugee

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Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Every year thousands of people in the Horn of Africa - mainly Somalis and Ethiopians - leave their homes out of fear or pure despair, in search of safety or a better life. They make their way over dangerous Somali roads to Bossaso in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

In this lawless area, smuggler networks have free reign and innocent and desperate civilians pay up to US$150 to make the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden.

Some stay weeks on end in safe houses or temporary homes in Bossaso before they can depart. A sudden call and a departure in the middle of the night, crammed in small unstable boats. At sea, anything can happen to them - they are at the whim of smugglers. Some people get beaten, stabbed, killed and thrown overboard. Others drown before arriving on the beaches of Yemen, which have become the burial ground for hundreds who many of those who died en route.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Somalia/Ethiopia

In February 2005, one of the last groups of Somalilander refugees to leave Aisha refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia boarded a UNHCR convoy and headed home to Harrirad in North-west Somalia - the self-declared independent state of Somaliland. Two years ago Harrirad was a tiny, sleepy village with only 67 buildings, but today more than 1,000 people live there, nearly all of whom are former refugees rebuilding their lives.

As the refugees flow back into Somalia, UNHCR plans to close Aisha camp by the middle of the year. The few remaining refugees in Aisha - who come from southern Somalia - will most likely be moved to the last eastern camp, Kebribeyah, already home to more than 10,000 refugees who cannot go home to Mogadishu and other areas in southern Somalia because of continuing lawlessness there. So far refugees have been returning to only two areas of the country - Somaliland and Puntland in the north-east.

Somalia/Ethiopia

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

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