With You Newsletter 2020 Issue 1: Message from Representative of China
I hope this message finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy. As you work diligently to protect and keep yourself and your family safe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, I know it is a challenging time for everyone. However, I believe these are invaluable moments for introspection, and reflection on our shared humanity, and the criticality of our inter-dependence.
It is an equally challenging time for UNHCR. Having just completed a highly turbulent decade for those that have been forcibly displaced, we are now confronted by a pandemic that has wrought uncertainty and fear worldwide. The coronavirus outbreak is set to become a test of our systems, values and humanity – for the world just as much as for us.
The health and wellbeing of refugees is always a key priority for UNHCR. As we face the unknown, UNHCR remains committed more than ever to protecting those that are the most vulnerable in society. As United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in an Op-ed co-authored with High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, “our response to this pandemic must encompass – and in fact, focus on – those whom society often neglects.”
Naturally this includes protecting those most susceptible to the coronavirus. With so many refugees living in crowded camps and low-income urban areas, often with poor sanitation and fragile healthcare systems, the coronavirus could have a devastating impact on refugee families.
That is why UNHCR is doing its part to implement our preparedness measures to protect refugees globally. Right now, we are building on past experience in dealing with previous outbreaks of SARS, Ebola and influenza to boost our response preparedness. This includes increasing the distribution of clean water, soap and waste disposal measures, launching information campaigns and working with host countries to ensure refugees are included in their pandemic response plans. International solidarity is key if we are to beat this virus.
And as more refugees are forced to flee their homes to escape violence and oppression, it is vital we ensure they too become part of the solution in the fight against this virus, because COVID-19 does not discriminate between refugees and others.
The world refugee crisis continues to increase in scope, scale and complexity over the past decade. As you will read in our cover story of our newsletter With You, the humanitarian crisis continues in war-torn north-western Syria with almost 1 million civilians fleeing their homes since December last year. In Afghanistan, four decades of unresolved conflict have left millions of its people in protracted exile in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran. With no apparent end in sight to the violence, we must galvanise more support for these refugees and the communities hosting them.
Moving closer to home, we recognise Hong Kong has faced enormous challenges over the past year. In spite of these difficulties, we thank you for continuing to stand with refugees. The impact you have made is precious. Because of you, we have been able to come closer to our vision of building a world where refugees can thrive, not just survive. As the fight against COVID-19 shows, we are always stronger together.
UNHCR Representative in China
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.