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Respond to emergencies

What we do

Respond to emergencies

When people are forced to flee, UNHCR is there.

We ensure they can reach safety, deliver life-saving aid and work to protect them while they are displaced from home.
A UNHCR staff member shows a group of Rohingya refugees the direction to a transit centre.

Emergency protection and assistance for people forced to flee

People forced to flee their homes to escape conflict or persecution must often leave everything behind to make the dangerous journey to safety.

UNHCR provides emergency protection and assistance to keep them safe, including shelter, access to clean water, food, medical care and help to reunite families.

Within the first 72 hours of an emergency UNHCR can send out supplies for 600,000 people and have expert staff on the ground.

We support both refugees, who have crossed an international border in search of safety, and people who have fled their homes but remain displaced within their own countries.

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Ensure refugees can reach safety

Making sure refugees can reach safety and are not pushed back across a border is central to our work. People forced to flee must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk. This is the prohibition against refoulement, enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention.

If we expect people might be fleeing across a border, our roving teams are out in vehicles in all kinds of terrain, sometimes 24 hours a day to help ensure refugees can reach safety. We monitor whether governments and armed groups are preventing refugees from entering a safe area. When necessary, we advocate with authorities and alert the media. We also try to make sure that people who do cross a border have a realistic chance to have their refugee status recognized.


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The most immediate need in a displacement crisis is often safe, suitable shelter. We deliver life-saving tents, plastic sheeting and bedding so people exhausted from a long and often dangerous journey can sleep indoors, where they feel safer and are protected from harsh weather.

We help find safe places for refugees to settle, and while we are not in favour of creating camps, where there is no alternative, we will set up and help manage them, and try to ensure they are properly designed to protect the environment and help prevent outbreaks of disease.

Learn more about Shelter


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Cash-based interventions

Where appropriate, UNHCR uses cash transfers or vouchers instead of food rations so displaced people can buy food, goods and services in the same way as the local community. This helps them access the items they need in a dignified manner and supports local economies. It is also cost-effective, allowing us to reach and support more people. 

Learn more about Cash-based interventions


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Coordinating assistance 

We pride ourselves on being able to coordinate a quick and effective response in emergencies. Our offices worldwide are always assessing the possibility of conflict and unrest to help us be prepared as early as possible. We work together with governments, sister UN agencies, and non-governmental organizations (international and national) to rapidly mobilize our emergency teams and ensure life-saving supplies reach people in need. 

Learn more about Coordinating assistance


Please consider donating today

Your gift can help protect someone forced to flee their home due to conflict or persecution.