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The very first article of the United Nations Charter states that a key “purpose and principle” of the world body is that of “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” But sadly, the UN has not always lived up to this noble ideal. 

A couple of days before Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013, the residents of a small village in the mountains outside Tacloban noticed that the birds were behaving differently and then stopped singing. According to a local newspaper report, the 75 villagers recognized this as a warning and responded by preparing shelters. All of them survived the 250 mile-per-hour winds despite significant damage to their homes, gardens, and trees. 

This is the second of two guest posts by journalist Moulid Hujale. To read the first post, click here.

More than 300,000 Somali refugees live in the Dadaab camps of northeastern Kenya. Interestingly, the refugees there are divided among various groups whose intentions to return home depend on the group’s main interest in staying the camps.

Mark Yarnell's picture

Amidst the news about drastic cuts to the World Food Program’s (WFP) support for Syrian refugees, it’s important to recall that WFP’s programs in other parts of the world have also been scaled back. For instance, in November, WFP halved food rations for the nearly half a million refugees living in camps in Kenya. The danger is not only that these refugees may go hungry, but also that they may be forced to return home before it’s safe to do so. 

This is the first of two guest posts by journalist Moulid Hujale. To read the second post, click here.

After completing a five days assessment mission to the port city of Kismayo in southern Somalia earlier this year, 19 refugee representatives from the Dadaab camps in Kenya have found that the current security and socioeconomic situation is not fit for returnees despite the local administration’s promise to provide such a conducive environment.

Alice Thomas's picture

In the beachside village of Jagnayan, I walk along the rows of plywood temporary shelters – known here as bunkhouses – looking for Estralia, a woman I met when I was here last February. The residents of the bunkhouses are typhoon survivors whose homes were destroyed when super-typhoon Haiyan, the strongest ever to make landfall, wrought total destruction across this region a little over a year ago. More than 6,000 people were killed and 4 million left homeless.

Earlier this year, many heralded New Zealand’s grant of asylum to a family from the low-lying Pacific island nation of Tuvalu as the first legal recognition of “climate refugees.” This was not the case. While the applicants claimed that they would be victim to the impacts of climate change if returned to their country, the tribunal explicitly refrained from ruling on this matter and granted the family's appeal on unrelated humanitarian grounds.

Dara McLeod's picture

This month, the Philippines is marking the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan – one of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall. The international response to the typhoon was immediate and robust – essential given the reality that over four million people were displaced by the storm.

But this week, I am in the Philippines to mark the one-year anniversary of another humanitarian crisis – one that is coming without fanfare. 

Alice Thomas's picture

This month, the people of central Philippines are marking a sad anniversary. On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall, drove a path of destruction across the region, killing over 6,000 people and displacing some four million. 

Earlier this year, I made my first trip to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in a search for some urban refugees. Although urban refugees are not officially recognised by the government of Tanzania, some organisations which work with the urban refugee population, such as Asylum Access, estimate that there may be over 10,000 in the city. 

Many of these refugees fled their countries of origin during the Great Lakes crises of the 1990s, with some Congolese especially arriving more recently having fled renewed violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

In early 2014, during peace talks facilitated by the United Nations and the Arab League, the Syrian government and opposition groups reached an agreement to allow some civilians to evacuate the city of Homs after being trapped for more than a year and a half. They also agreed to the delivery of desperately-needed aid. Food supplies had drastically depleted inside the city in the previous months, and families had resorted to eating wild plants and small amounts of insect-infested grains. 

In a recent speech to his governing board, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres made an intriguing but little-noticed proposal - that the humanitarian response to major emergencies should in future be partly funded by assessed rather than voluntary contributions.

But what exactly did he mean by that?

The country of Sudan has been plagued by war since it was granted independence from Britain in 1955. Conflict originated from the merging of the northern and southern regions of Sudan by the British colonial government, and religious differences and conflict over resources resulted in the outbreak of civil war from 1955 to 1972, and again from 1983 to 2005. During the second civil war, around tens of thousands of boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 17 were forced from their homes.

According to Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “eighty-six per cent of refugees in the world live in developing countries, and the truth is that many of these host countries that have so generously opened their borders, often more generously than the developed countries, are not receiving adequate solidarity from the international community.”

Michael Boyce's picture

Five months ago, I visited a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) near Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The people living there first arrived in 2012 and 2013, having fled from armed groups who destroyed villages and killed civilians. As the chaos continued back at home, many IDPs had no choice but to remain in the camps. But the longer they stayed, the less aid they received from the United Nations and other organizations.

Daryl Grisgraber's picture

In the center of Erbil, northern Iraq, just next to a highway overpass, we met Yezin and his family – refugees from the fighting in neighboring Syria. Nasser himself didn’t get up to greet us. He had been wounded in a mortar attack on his Syrian hometown of Aleppo. The field surgery he had received left a metal plate in his leg that doesn’t allow him to stand or walk on his own any longer. He and his family of seventeen are now living in an abandoned construction lot in Erbil, where it has been hard for humanitarian agencies to find and help them.

Sarnata Reynolds's picture

When I met Amir two years ago in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, he had just graduated with a degree in Physics from Sittwe University. He was a fluent English speaker and planned to pursue a career as an engineer. Amir lived in Aung Mingalar, the only neighborhood in the capital city of Sittwe where the Rohingya still maintained a residence after 140,000 had been driven out of the city by mobs assisted by the police.

Marcy Hersh's picture

Next week, I will be traveling on mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), along with several RI colleagues, where we will be undertaking an in-depth assessment of the challenges that the humanitarian community is currently facing in keeping women and girls safe from gender-based violence (GBV). 

"Thailand’s pledge to repatriate 100,000 Burmese refugees sparks concern.” “Refugees fear forced return to Myanmar.” “Thai and Burmese armies to discuss refugee repatriation in August.” According to these recent news reports, the 140,000 refugees from Myanmar who are currently exiled in neighboring Thailand are about to go home, whether they like it or not. 

Refugees International traveled to Myanmar’s Kayin State to test the validity of such assertions, and found the reality of the situation to be quite different.