GENEVA - A new global campaign aims to sensitize the world to the plight of refugees by urging people to step into their shoes and clock the number of kilometers they need to run to reach safety.
The campaign wants people to get out of their comfort zone and see what it feels like to be a refugee. It is calling on them to cover the distance traveled by refugees fleeing for their lives every year.
The U.N. refugee agency estimates refugees travel 2 billion kilometers every year to reach the first point of safety. UNHCR spokesman, Babar Baloch, tells VOA the campaign encourages people to run, walk or cycle to achieve a similar cumulative total.
He says participants can use their fitness apps or the campaign website to log the kilometers and contribute to a global total.
“The whole idea is to bring back solidarity to the refugee cause. So, this is a contribution and also walking, running, cycling — they are all healthy activities, but refugees do not do it for fun. They do it when they have to leave or run away from a situation of danger,” he said.
Baloch notes it takes a Syrian refugee 240 kilometers to reach Turkey. South Sudanese refugees, he says, have to travel more than 640 kilometers to reach Kenya, and Rohingya refugees in Myanmar have to cover about 80 kilometers to reach safety in Bangladesh.
The UNHCR is calling on people in 27 countries across Africa, Asia, Central and North America, Europe and the Middle East to take part in the campaign. It says participants can seek sponsorship to raise funds for the refugee cause. The agency says it hopes to raise more than $15 million. This will support registration and reception services for refugees as well as providing food and water, shelter and other basic aid.
The UNHCR reports a record 68.5 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide, including 25.4 million refugees.