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.
Western Sahara Family Visits
Emotions are running high in the Sahara desert as families split for nearly three decades by conflict over sovereignty of the Western Sahara Territory are being briefly reunited by a UNHCR family visit scheme.
Living in five windswept and isolated camps around Tindouf in south-western Algeria for the last 28 years, the refugees have been almost totally cut off from their relatives in the Territory. So when the UN refugee agency launched its five-day family visit scheme in March this year, there were tears of joy as well as apprehension at the prospect of reunion.
The visit scheme is proving extremely popular, with more than 800 people already having visited their relatives and another 18,000 signed up to go. In addition to the family visit scheme, the UN refugee agency has opened telephone centres in some of the camps, creating another channel through which long-lost family members can make contact.
Photos taken in June 2004.
Destruction and Displacement in Darfur, Sudan
An estimated one million people have been displaced within Sudan's western region of Darfur by fighting that erupted in early 2003. Militia have reportedly killed and raped villagers and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes in Darfur.
Many of the displaced people are living in squalid, makeshift encampments, where they continue to fear attacks by marauding militia.
UNHCR became operational in Darfur in June 2004 following a request from the UN country team for the refugee agency to share its expertise in protection, camp management and site planning. UNHCR has opened offices in Nyala and El Geneina and plans to establish a presence in El Fasher. UNHCR teams have begun evaluating existing camps for displaced persons to improve the layout and design and have begun training governmental camp managers in protection and the rights of displaced people.
Portraits of Darfur's Refugees
Nearly 200,000 refugees, the majority of them women and children, have fled across the border from Sudan into Chad since the outbreak of conflict in Sudan's Darfur region in March 2003. The refugees have left behind their homes and often loved ones in Darfur, where militias have reportedly killed and raped villagers, looted and burned houses and possessions and driven people from their homes.
Most of the refugees in eastern Chad are sheltered in 11 camps established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where they receive humanitarian aid, shelter, water and basic services.
Life in the camps is not easy in the desert environment of eastern Chad, where water and firewood are extremely scarce. Sandstorms are a regular feature during the dry months and torrential rains flood the landscape in the wet season.
Yet in the faces of the refugees, dignity and hope remain in spite of the hardships and the violence they have suffered.
Camp Life in Eastern Chad
Faced with nearly 200,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur fleeing into the barren desert of eastern Chad, the UN refugee agency has essentially had to build small villages – including shelter, latrines, water supply and basic services – to accommodate the refugees and help them survive in a hostile natural environment with scarce local resources. The 11 camps set up so far shelter more than 166,000 refugees from Darfur.
While much work still needs to be done, especially to find sufficient water in the arid region, life in the camps has reached a certain level of normalcy, with schools and activities starting up and humanitarian aid regularly distributed to the residents. Meanwhile, UNHCR continues to improve services and living conditions in the existing camps and is working to set up new camps to take in more refugees from the ongoing violence in Darfur.
Uganda: Sudanese Refugees Flee Rebel Attacks
On August 5, 2002, some 24,000 Sudanese refugees fled their homes in Achol-Pii camp in northern Uganda after a bloody attack by the Lord's Liberation Army rebel group. More than 60 refugees and many local villagers were killed in the attack.
Fearing further violence, displaced refugees trekked overnight to Lira, from where UNHCR trucked them to Kiryondongo, 100 km to the south-west. Kiryondongo site, a settlement already hosting 13,000 refugees, was temporarily extended to accommodate the Achol-Pii survivors until another site could be prepared.
Arriving families were initially accommodated at an expanded reception centre at Kiryondongo. After being registered, the new arrivals received UNHCR plastic sheeting, an emergency food ration and a 20 x 15-metre plot per family to build their own temporary shelter. UNHCR also distributed blankets and jerry cans. Additional latrines were also dug, new water pumps installed and a new emergency clinic was set up.