Putting Our Work into Focus
A picture tells a thousand words - and UNHCR has more than 250,000 of them dating back decades. The agency's photo library in Geneva is guardian of the world's largest collection of refugee-related photos covering nearly all of the major displacements of the last 60 years. These images provide a comprehensive portrait of the lives of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and the stateless in all corners of the globe, as well as the work of the thousands of UN staff who have helped them. Many of our best photos are showcased on this website and on the social networking site, Flickr. We offer the use of our photos free to the media.
Galkayo: Vulnerable in a volatile land
Galkayo, located in Somalia's Puntland region, is home to more than 60,000 displaced people who fled war-torn south-central Somalia and harsh drought conditions in many parts of the country.
The displaced people are scattered around 21 makeshift settlements in Galkayo. Multiple families often share small, rudimentary shelters made of cardboard and plastic sheets. Despite overcrowding and extreme poverty, it is not uncommon for families to take in abandoned children and elderly people who are on their own.
Squalid conditions and lack of proper health care mean that simple ailments can easily develop into complications. There is little employment in Galkayo and most displaced people find informal day labour, such as collecting garbage or washing clothes for the locals.
UNHCR provides basic assistance to Galkayo's displaced people through vocational training and income generation programs meant to improve their livelihoods. The refugee agency also provides temporary shelter and emergency relief items for vulnerable families.
Bossaso: Life on the edge
The port of Bossasso, located in Somalia's northern Puntland region, is the main departure point for the tens of thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants who risk their lives in crossing the Gulf of Aden to reach Yemen.
In addition to those using Bossaso as a transit point, some 50,000 Somalis have sought refuge there after fleeing from their homes to escape conflict. Life is difficult for these internally displaced people, who live in 26 settlements, mostly on private lots around the city. Their crude homes are made from scraps of cardboard and plastic. The combination of overcrowding in the settlements and the use of very flammable building materials means that fires break out on a regular basis, seriously injuring people and destroying their shelters and belongings. Displaced families are also often at risk of being forcibly evicted by the private landlords.
UNHCR and its implementing partners try and improve the lives of these communities through small-scale projects, including income-generation activities and awareness programmes on issues such as sexual and gender-based violence.
Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa
Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie joined UNHCR chief António Guterres on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where they met with boat people who have fled unrest in North Africa.
More than 40,000 people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, have crossed the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats and descended on the small island since the beginning of the year.
The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador flew to Lampedusa from Malta, which has also been a destination for people fleeing North Africa by boat.
Displacement in Libya: Misrata, Benghazi and Tobruk
Thousands of people still remain displaced in eastern Libya as a result of the conflict that erupted in mid-February between government and opposition forces. Most are staying with host families, in empty buildings or schools. Other people of concern to UNHCR, such as refugees and asylum-seekers, have fled conflict areas such as Misrata by boat to safer locations. They are now hoping to return to their homes in Libya, be resettled to a third country, or to return to their countries of origin. UNHCR's Helene Caux has photographed the plight of internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees and migrants in Misrata, Benghazi and Tobruk.
More focus needed on reintegration of former Afghan refugees
Many of the more than 5.5 million Afghan refugees who have returned home since 2002 are still struggling to survive. Lack of land, job opportunities and other services, combined with poor security in some places, has caused many returnees to head to urban areas. While cities offer the promise of informal day labour, the rising cost of rental accommodation and basic commodities relegate many returnees to life in one of the informal settlements which have mushroomed across Kabul in recent years. Some families are living under canvases and the constant threat of eviction, while others have gained a toe-hold in abandoned buildings around the city.
UNHCR gives humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable, and is currently rallying support from donors and humanitarian and development agencies to redouble efforts to help returning refugees reintegrate in Afghanistan.