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.
Enormous Challenges Faced by Mali's Urban Displaced
Over the past year, the conflict in northern Mali has forced more than 228,000 people to seek refuge in other parts of the country - including some 51,000 who have fled to Bamako, the capital. Without the support networks and other resources they left behind, internally displaced Malians face enormous challenges. High rents in Bamako, for example, compel many of the uprooted to seek shelter in crowded apartments far from the city centre. Limited access to health care, clean water and education makes their situation even more precarious.
Finding work is also incredibly difficult in a new environment where job opportunities typically come through personal or family connections. And so, in suburban neighbourhoods like Sangarébougou, farmers and animal herders now sit idly in unfamiliar apartments, and teachers struggle to find new posts even though local schools are overcrowded.
Hopes of returning home soared in recent weeks as French troops drove the separatists out of population centres like Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. Yet northern Mali is still far from safe and secure. Until it is, many displaced Malians will struggle on in Bamako.
Mali: Caution prevails as displaced families contemplate return home
While the situation in the north of Mali remains volatile, some displaced families have decided to return to their homes. After using public transportation to reach Mopti, they set off by boat on a two-day journey in order to reach Timbuktu. The majority of those displaced say they will wait to see how the security and humanitarian situation evolves before returning to their homes. The conflict in northern Mali has forced 241,000 people to flee their homes for safer locations elsewhere in the country.
UNHCR humanitarian aid convoy reaches IDPs in Syria
The UN refugee agency at the end of January completed a first delivery of winter emergency relief to the Azzas area of northern Syria, where thousands of internally displaced people are living in makeshift camps, as well as to the Kerama camp. An eight-truck convoy transported 2,000 tents and 15,000 blankets from Latakia on the Syrian coast to an area between Aleppo and the Syrian-Turkish border. The recipients were delighted with the aid after months of suffering. The operation was possible thanks to the logistics support of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the agreement and cooperation of the Syrian government and facilitation by the Syrian National Coalition. This allowed the convoy to safely reach people in need, in a strictly humanitarian and non-political operation. In early February, almost 790,000 Syrians in neighbouring countries were either registered as refugees or awaiting registration. A further 4 million people inside Syria were affected by the crisis, including an estimated 2.5 million internally displaced people.
Congolese in Uganda: from flight to settlement
After three years of relative peace, waves of combat erupted again in Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province in April 2012, causing major population displacement. Fighting in North Kivu's Rutshuru territory between government forces and rebel fighters from the M23 movement caused tens of thousands of Congolese civilians to seek shelter across the border in Uganda, mainly in the Kisoro district. Many joined UNHCR-organized convoys to the settlement of Rwamwanja, which was opened last April to deal with the influx. By the end of 2012, the settlement was hosting more than 30,000 refugees. Each refugee family is given a plot of land on which to construct a home and plant crops and encouraged to become self-sufficient. UNHCR wants to urgently improve infrastructure at the settlement and has appealed for supplementary funding.
This photo set follows one family at Rwamwanja, led by 52-year-old Harerimana. The family lived in the Rutshuru town of Bitwo but fled when it came under attack last June. Harerimana became separated from his family and spent five days on the road on his own before finding his relatives in the forest. After two weeks, they crossed into Uganda and reached Nyakabande Transit Centre. They then registered to be moved to Rwamwanja, where the extended family now lives on two plots of land.
Myanmar IDPs pick up the pieces in Rakhine state
A humanitarian crisis is unfolding across Myanmar's Rakhine state, where some 115,000 people are desperately in need of aid after being displaced during two waves of inter-communal violence in June and October 2012. The displaced, most of them ethnic Rohingya, have sought shelter in temporary relief camps and others remain scattered across the state, living under tight security in their destroyed villages. Conditions are harsh: the camps are overcrowded and some lack even the most basic of sanitation facilities while many of the villages are totally destroyed and running low on water. In one village, more than 32 families were living cheek-by-jowl in just two large tents. The children have no access to education and the newborn and elderly are in a very vulnerable position due to a lack of medical facilities. UNHCR is distributing relief supplies and working with the authorities and partners to improve camp conditions, but international assistance is required.