The theme for this World Refugee Day, Wednesday 20 June 2018, is Now more than ever, we need to stand #WithRefugees. It is a day meant to show solidarity with the plight of millions of refugees around the globe. The annual event, run by the United Nations Refugee Agency, is held on the same date each year with 2018 being the 18th year of the event.
The present refugee crisis is one of the most alarming problems facing humanity today. In its annual Global Trends report the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency said 68.5 million people were displaced as of the end of 2017. The global displaced population is young – 53 per cent are children, including many who are unaccompanied or separated from their families.
The report also states that the number of countries hosting large numbers of refugees was comparatively few: Turkey remained the world’s leading refugee hosting country in terms of absolute numbers with a population of 3.5 million refugees, mainly Syrians. Lebanon hosted the largest number of refugees relative to its national population. In all, 63 per cent of all refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility were in just 10 countries.
The significance of celebrating World Refugee Day lies in its humanitarian goals which are:
- To honour the courage and perseverance of refugees who are fighting for their very survival against all odds.
- To call for support from the international community to address refugee issues.
- To make people aware of the plight of refugees and to call upon them to ask their governments to help refugees in their struggle.
- To press upon the asylum giving governments to make policies to provide a safe and secure life to refugees until they are settled permanently again in their homeland.
- To remind ourselves that we are all part of the same humanity and we share a responsibility towards each other to help in times of need.
- And above all to make a violence free world where no one is persecuted on the basis of race, colour, ethnicity, religion, region or culture.
Overwhelmingly it is developing countries that are most affected
According to the UN, every minute at least 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror. Violence and fear of persecution forces people to flee their homeland in search of a safe and secure place. Each day millions of families also face the existential threat from natural or man-made disasters.
Wars, other violence and persecution drove worldwide forced displacement to a new high in 2017 for the fifth year in a row, led by the crisis in Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan’s war, and the flight into Bangladesh from Myanmar of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. Overwhelmingly it is developing countries that are most affected.
No one becomes a refugee by choice
The Refugees Brief also reported on the growing reaction over the United States policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border stating that nearly 2,000 children were separated between mid-April and the end of May with most of the families coming from Central America, “where high levels of violence and forced recruitment of children into gangs have pushed growing numbers to seek asylum in the US and elsewhere.”
In a statement on Monday, UNHCR urged the US to prioritize family unity and the best interests of children. “There are effective ways to ensure border control without putting families through the lasting psychological trauma of child-parent separation,” said Filippo Grandi.
PalCHASE – Palliative Care in Humanitarian Settings
According to the PalCHASE website, pallaitive care is practically absent from the current humanitarian response, a state of affairs they aim to change. Through a recent survey this organisation has identified the following challenges to providing pallaitive care in humanitarian settings:
- lack of palliative care knowledge amongst humanitarian workers
- the natural priority given to life-saving interventions in the context of scarce resources
- lack of opioids in typical medicines packages
- lack of humanitarian-specific standards, guidelines and protocols
- fears that commitment to palliative care may weaken efforts to improve access to curative treatments, where appropriate.
PalCHASE is currently supporting the development of WHO Guidance on Palliative Care in Humanitarian Emergencies which are close to completion before being reviewed by the WHO and an external review group. They have also led an initiative to assess the pallaitive care needs amongst the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh where 73% of respondents reported having significant pain, 46% had not received any treatment and none reported receiving opioid pain medications.
Protecting refugee children
A CNN report published today and written by Filippo Grandi and Henrietta H. Fore states that refugee children endure unthinkable suffering every day as they embark on journeys to reach safety or to join relatives. The report goes on to say that children too often face hostility and rejection just when they think they have found sanctuary such as being turned away by border guards and impenetrable barbed wire fences, kept in detention centres and separated from their parents.
“As the world’s conflicts have multiplied and intensified over the past few years to create millions more refugees and displaced people, governments seem to have overlooked their duty of care to children,” they write. And in a call to action, the authors challenge their readers thus:
“Here is our call to action: refugee children, whether on our doorsteps, or in remote borderlands, must be protected, sheltered and equipped for their futures. They must have an education that will arm them with the skills and confidence to rebuild their shattered lives. Our ability to make a difference in their lives — between despair and hope, and being left behind and building a future — is a test of our shared humanity.”