Estonia donates half a million euros to UNHCR’s emergency operations

As 2016 draws to a close, the world is witnessing a record high level of forced displacement, with over 65 million people on the move. While new refugee crises are erupting, unresolved and protracted refugee situations worldwide shows no signs of being resolved in the nearest future. The challenges faced by UNHCR in attempting to respond to multiple life-threatening crises and ever-growing humanitarian needs are rapidly expanding.

©UNHCR/John Wendle

By December, UNHCR has received almost EUR 500,000 from the Estonian Government. Two thirds of this contribution is being spent on the Ukraine situation, while the rest is split between the refugee response to the Syria situation and unearmarked contributions that goes to strengthen UNHCR’s supply of unrestricted financial funds- the latter being a crucial fund from which UNHCR can freely allocate resources to address forgotten and underfinanced operations, or kick-start an emergency response whilst pending receipt of additional donations.

Since the onset of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine in 2014, more than 2 million people have been forced to flee their homes to seek sanctuary elsewhere in the country or abroad. Nearly 800,000, including the elderly, disabled and disadvantaged people remain in need of assistance in or close to the conflict zone. Around 10,000 houses in the non-government controlled areas of Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, have been damaged as a result of the conflict.

“Everything was broken, there were tanks, empty shells…We ate what was left in the basement”

Elena Surnina, a mother of three, whose house in the village of Novosvetlovka, Luhansk, was hit by shellfire.

UNHCR is present in Ukraine, delivering humanitarian assistance in the form of shelter support, winterisation assistance, distribution of non-food items, providing legal counselling and building capacity to identify and assist victims of sexual and gender based violence. Thousands of families who have been forced to flee their homes due to fighting in eastern Ukraine, only to return to their property damaged by acts of war, have had their households repaired and rehabilitated by the help of UNHCR and partner organisations.

When the Syria crisis entered its sixth year in 2016, Estonia had already been a firm supporter to Syrian refugees and the neighbouring countries hosting them. In Lebanon, 70 per cent of Syrians are living below the poverty line and 50 per cent in extreme poverty, while in Jordan 93 per cent are living under the poverty line. Without funding from Governments such as Estonia, UNHCR will not be able to reach displaced people that falls within the most vulnerable categories in urgent need of help.

“Estonia’s 2016 donations to UNHCR is an important gesture of solidarity with refugees and forcibly displaced people worldwide. We all bear witness to the televised horrendous suffering refugees must endure in this day and age, from Aleppo to the war torn village in eastern Ukraine. The financial support from Estonia is crucial because it restores hope to those deprived of their livelihoods due to conflict and violence,” says Pia Prytz Phiri, UNHCR´s Regional Representative for Northern Europe.

Estonia is a predictable donor to UNHCR and has provided annual donations since 2008. In 2015, Estonia increased its unearmarked funding, so it amounted to 26 percent of the total donations to UNHCR. A significant portion of UNHCR’s programmes worldwide can only be realised by these unearmarked contributions, which provides the flexibility necessary to implement emergency operations.