News / Middle East

Numbers at 18-Yr. High as UN Observes World Refugee Day

Numbers at 18-Year High as UN Observes World Refugee Dayi
X
June 19, 2013 10:30 PM
Thursday is World Refugee Day - and the United Nations says the number of refugees worldwide is at its highest in 18 years, at over 45 million people. The Syrian conflict is a major driver behind the increase, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Henry Ridgwell
Thursday is World Refugee Day - and the United Nations says the number of refugees worldwide is at its highest in 18 years, at over 45 million people. The Syrian conflict is a major driver behind the increase.

Four-year-old Shahad laughs and jokes with her older sister in their makeshift home. She appears a happy, young girl; but the scars and burn marks on her smiling face tell the story of her beginnings as a refugee.

In September 2012, her home near the Syrian city of Hama was destroyed.
 
Shahad’s father, Yehia, describes what he saw when he arrived at the house.

“We were pulling the wounded out from 10am until 3pm. Two of my children were killed,” he said.

Yehia took his two surviving daughters and fled to Lebanon.

Shahad has now become the face of the United Nations’ World Refugee Day, on Thursday, June 20.

But this one girl’s harrowing story is being repeated across Syria.

Source Countries for Refugees (Click to enlarge)Source Countries for Refugees (Click to enlarge)
x
Source Countries for Refugees (Click to enlarge)
Source Countries for Refugees (Click to enlarge)
Antonio Guterres, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees is currently touring Syria’s neighbors, and visited Shahad’s new home city of Sidon in Lebanon Wednesday.

“Lebanon is facing an existential threat and needs and deserves massive support from the international community, it is absolutely essential that the wonderful generosity that we witness here in villages like these is met by the whole world,” Guterres said.

Fadi Harkura of analyst group Chatham House says there is resentment that the West is not doing more.

“About one million refugees in Lebanon and around half-a-million Syrian refugees in Jordan are putting enormous strain on the local resources, on the local services and that’s also causing some negative feeling,” Hakura said.

There are many crises that remain relatively ignored - like the refugees who have fled the violence in Mali, says Doctor Unni Krishnan, Head of Disaster Response at the global charity Plan International.

“Plan works in Burkina Faso where there are thousands of refugees today. And even when the funding is coming, it is extremely difficult to raise funds for some of the invisible needs like child protection, education for refugee children, and psycho-social care and support,” Krishnan said.

Worldwide Refugee Figures for 2012

  • 7.6 million people were displaced
  • 23,000 persons per day were forced to leave their homes
  • 35.8 million people were protected by the UNHCR
  • More than half the world's refugees came from Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan
  • Women and girls accounted for 48% of the refugee population
The U.N. says developing countries - like Burkina Faso - host 85 percent of the world’s refugees. Krishnan says the youngest refugees sometimes are not even counted.

“Children who are born in refugee camps often live and they move on to the next generation, they move on to the generation after that. We have such incidences. So registering the birth and having that identity is crucial because that will allow them to access education, more choices in the future,” Krishnan said.

Fifty-five percent of all refugees come from five war-ravaged countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan.

Back in Lebanon, Yahia still fears for his daughter’s future.

He says, "She has seen fighter planes, artillery, missiles. There is nothing she has not seen,” he said.

In Syria, the artillery and gunfire continue relentlessly. The U.N. estimates that 3.5 million people will have fled the country by the end of the year.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs