On June 20 each year, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and other international and civic organizations celebrate World Refugee Day, to shed light on the plight of millions of people who flee their homes to protect themselves and their families from conflict and persecution in their country. The United Nations’ High Commissioner, Antonio Gutteres, released on this date the worldwide report that gives the annual number of refugees, which have surpassed 50 million in 2013. The UN says this has been the highest number of refugees since World War II. The data was collected from government, partner organizations and the UNHCR’s records.
The exact number reported was 51.2 million, more than six million than the year before. The numbers do not include the hundreds of thousands of people who are believed to have fled Iraq within the past week. According to the UNHCR, the conflict in Syria has been one of the main contributors for the increase in refugees and people displaced. Syrians make up a total of 2.5 million people who have found shelter within neighboring countries and more than 6 million who have been displaced within the country. According to SF Gate, The World Food Program was forced to cut rations given to refugees, due to the escalating number of people and scarce resources.
Neighboring nations that have taken these refugees are Pakistan, Iran and Lebanon. In Africa, the largest countries taking in displaced individuals are Kenya, Chad and Ethiopia. UN agencies are taking care of approximately 12 million refugees, of those, more than half have been exiled or internally displaced and are being assisted by the UNHCR agency. Countries with the most people looking for shelter are from Somalia, Syria and Afghanistan. Somalis account for more than a million refugees.
Of the more than 50 million refugees worldwide, more than 16 million found asylum outside their country, while more than six million have been forced out of their homes but have stayed within their countries’ boundaries. In Lebanon, there are approximately m a million Syrian refugees who left their country when the war started in 2011. Syrians now make up one-fourth of Lebanon’s population.
In addition, Asia and the Pacific have one of the largest numbers of refugees, with nearly 4 million people. Sub-Saharan Africa has 2.9 million, and the Middle East and North America have 2.5 million evacuees. Apart from refugees, people seeking asylum from developing countries, account for more than 1 million people. The UNHCR also states, that the most challenging group to assist are those internally displaced, which account for more than 33 million people. Guterres stated in a discussion in December of last year, that people who are internally displaced usually find refuge in the most rural and underprivileged parts of their country. These places are usually not ready for the amounts of people looking for protection, and some even remain in conflict areas, making it harder to assist them.
Out of the more than 50 million refugees worldwide, the UNHCR provides assistance to approximately 34 million. The organization provides shelter, food, supplies and services to all those looking for protection. According to the UNHCR, nearly 80 percent of refugees and internally displaced people are women and children.
By Marcia Villavicencio