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UNHCR urges critical support for refugees in Egypt

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UNHCR urges critical support for refugees in Egypt

28 February 2019
Egypt. Refugee students reap benefits at education initiative in Cairo
Sudanese refugees visit a medical clinic for baby wellness checkups in the Zamalek district of Cairo, Egypt, December 2017.

Support for refugees in Egypt is under severe pressure due to increased arrivals and inadequate resources, warned UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today.

Ongoing conflicts in Yemen and in Sub-Saharan Africa have forced more people to flee to Egypt. Over the past two years the number of registered refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt has increased by 24 per cent.

Meanwhile, current refugee programmes in Egypt which are meant to assist and protect a quarter of a million refugees, more than half of whom are Syrian with others from Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan and Yemen, are just four per cent funded.

The surge in the refugee population coupled with funding shortfalls are leaving many refugees without critical support and protection.

“I am deeply troubled by the fact that eight out of 10 refugees in Egypt are living in desperate humanitarian conditions. They cannot meet even their most basic needs. Putting bread on the table is a daily challenge,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

“These refugees require timely and adequate humanitarian assistance. Yet, right now we are unable to provide them with the bare essentials or maintain our core refugee protection programmes in this country”.

Two months into 2019, UNHCR is operating with only a fraction of its annual USD104.2 million budget to support and protect refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt.

Despite Egypt’s hospitality and support to refugees, including through the provision of free education and access to health care on an equal footing with Egyptians, many refugees struggle to feed their families, to send their children to school and to keep themselves sheltered. Many are rapidly sinking into debt and poverty, forcing them to resort to most desperate measures to survive, including child labour, early marriages, or are being forced to turn to the streets.

Without timely, predictable and flexible funding, UNHCR’s essential protection activities for refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt - including refugee registration and refugee status determination processes, prevention of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and response programs, legal assistance and child protection activities - are at risk.

UNHCR is particularly concerned about the ability to sustain its protection programs for refugee children – especially those separated from their families. Forty per cent of refugees in Egypt are children. Many arrived in Egypt unaccompanied and are still separated from their families.

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