Thursday, June 19, 2008

World Refugee Day: June 20, 2008

As many of you know, tomorrow is the seventh annual World Refugee Day. The United Nations designated June 20 as World Refugee Day to recognize the contributions of refugees around the world and to remember their plight. The theme for the 2008 World Refugee Day is: "Protecting Refugees: Rebuilding Lives in Safety and Dignity." Right now, more than 5.2 million Iraqis have been driven from their homes. 2.5 million Iraqis fled from Iraq, seeking refuge in neighboring countries, particularly Jordan and Syria. Another 2.7 million are displaced within Iraq. Some estimate that 30% of the refugees are children. "Displacement leaves children at risk for disease, with lack of adequate healthcare and nutrition, and places many children at risk for abuse. Of the displaced children younger than five, almost half suffer from malnutrition."

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, or UNHCR, is an agency of the United Nations mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. They also provide support to governments in the region that are struggling to cope with the huge influx of refugees from Iraq. So far, the UNHCR has registered more than 280,000 Iraqis in neighboring states, provided health care for 250,000 people and enabled 72,000 Iraqi refugee children to attend school. In January, UNHCR appealed for 261 million dollars to fund its operation aimed at helping some of the most vulnerable refugees. However, they only received 134 million, leaving them 127 million dollars short of the necessary funding to continue support in Iraq. António Guterres, the High Commissioner for Refugees for the UN stated, “Without this support, the humanitarian crisis we have faced over the past two years may grow even larger.”

A lot has been done to address the refugee crisis, but there are still many needs that are unmet.

What can you do to help on World Refugee Day?

To honor World Refugee Day, we urge you to sign the Humanitarian Pledge and send it to your peers. The pledge has 3 core components:
  • A belief that the people of Iraq and the United States are interconnected by events since the war began in 2003 and that more must be done to help the millions of displaced Iraqis.
  • A call for President Bush, his successor, and Congress to do more to strengthen assistance to the region; to support effective relief, peace-building, and community-based development; and to increase US admission to vulnerable Iraqis.
  • A commitment to help the millions of Iraqis in need of aid and to make a better, safer world.

Yesterday, Ken Bacon, president of Refugees International, wrote an interesting article about the refugee crisis in Iraq and the response by the US government. In the article, he stated:
“President Bush has never mentioned the plight of displaced Iraqis, and other White House officials act as though the problem doesn't exist.”

Please do not let the humanitarian crisis in Iraq continue to go unnoticed.

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