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Livelihoods & Self-Reliance

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Helping Them Help Themselves

They may flee their homes with just the clothes on their backs, but forcibly displaced people always carry something of considerable value: their knowledge, skills and experience. A few of the more fortunate ones manage bring along precious productive assets, such as tools, livestock or money. But no matter how much or how little they arrive with, most displaced people have the potential to become self-reliant in their places of refuge. UNHCR, through the Livelihoods Unit, helps refugees, refugee returnees and internally displaced people tap this potential and build a platform for a better future.

Investing in people's livelihoods is also important because it helps cut the cost of aid and protection and enhances the chances for a sustainable durable solution, be it return, local integration or resettlement.

Being forced from one's home does not mean that somebody must become totally dependent on aid in their place of exile, be it in a camp or an urban setting. We run livelihoods projects in about 70 percent of our field operations. These include facilitating access to savings and loan mechanisms; skills and vocational training; entrepreneurship training and business support services, sustainable use of natural resources; labour-based activities; grant assistance in emergency situations; career guidance and support; and facilitating access to apprenticeships and jobs as well as work and business permits.

Urban Refugees and Livelihoods

UNHCR's urban livelihoods initiative aims at helping refugees face the challenges they encounter in cities and towns.

Women Leading for Livelihoods

A programme aimed at promoting the empowerment and economic independence of female refugees.

Access to Microfinance Services

Microfinance is one element in the facilitation of refugee self-sufficiency and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods.

Community Technology Access

A programme that allows refugees to use computer technology for education as well as business and livelihoods purposes.




Global Strategy for Livelihoods

A UNHCR Strategy 2014-2018

Bangladesh: A Life On HoldPlay video

Bangladesh: A Life On Hold

The story of Noor Jahan, a refugee from Myanmar. Noor Jahan fled from Myanmar in 1992 and found shelter in Bangladesh. Camp life has always been hard, but recent improvements have made her family's life a little easier.