World Refugee Day 2009
Posted on: Monday, June 22, 2009
World Refugee Day was this week, so we wanted to share a few quick snapshots of the experiences and living conditions of both refugees and internally displaced people in some of the places in which we work. For years, MADRE’s work had guided us to partner with women’s community-based organizations that are grappling with the impacts of war, conflict, environmental destruction, and more. Women facing these enormous challenges have mobilized their resources to sustain their communities, and we are proud to contribute to such essential efforts.
Afghanistan currently has the second largest refugee community in the world. Since 2002, over 5 million Afghan refugees have returned home, making it the largest refugee return process to have ever taken place. Over 3 million people remain in exile. Of those refugees that have returned to Afghanistan, many are still unable to return to their homes and are forced to live in camps for internally displaced people. These camps are notorious for their lack of sanitation facilities, clean drinking water and healthcare,posing an enormous threat to their inhabitants, especially children.
MADRE’s sister organization in Afghanistan, Shuhada, supports women who often bear the brunt of conflict. Their shelters provide health care and education to women, many of whom have been left with few options because of the war.
While 1.5 million Iraqi refugees are currently living outside of Iraq, there are an additional 2.7 million displaced Iraqis within their own country, unable to access such necessities as their food rations and most are unemployed. A recent report by the UN refugee agency in Syria indicated that, over an 8-month period in 2008, nearly 500 victims of sexual and gender-based violence were identified. This brings the average to some 13 people per week. The actual levels of this violence are almost certainly underestimated due to the reluctance of women, the most common victims, to speak up.
MADRE’s sister organization, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), has witnessed and confronted the rise in violence against women since the start of the US occupation. Their network of women’s shelters protects women threatened with violence and supports their efforts to rebuild their lives.
Since 1984, 4 million Colombians have been forced to leave their homes, a number roughly the population of Kentucky. The number of people leaving their homes is increasing, with 250,000 people displaced just last year. In fact, one in ten Colombians has been forcibly displaced because of the extensive violence within their country. Displaced families coming from rural areas tend to seek safety in urban centers, although they are often ill-equipped to easily survive in urban settings due to the fact that their skills are more geared towards rural living than the urban labor market.
LIMPAL and Taller de Vida, MADRE’s two sister organizations in Colombia, support displaced women and families in their efforts to create healthy lives and communities. LIMPAL trains displaced women about their human rights and provides opportunities for income-generating projects. Taller de Vida works with women and children impacted by the war, providing trauma counseling, education and art programs.
There are currently more than 2 million internally displaced peopleliving in the Darfur region, and more than 250,000 people living in refugee camps located in Chad. Many of those refugees who have fled to Chad had already been living as displaced citizens within Darfur for extended periods of time. These camps are continuously threatened by violence, rebel recruitment and attacks by government-allied militias. What’s more, the precarious availability of necessities like food and water was catastrophically undermined earlier this year by the Sudanese government’s decision to expel major aid organizations.
MADRE sister organization Zenab for Women in Development has organized Sudanese women farmers into a union, allowing them to access much needed support and tools. Many of these women originated from the Darfur region and are now planning to raise crops to supply food aid to those remaining in the conflict zone.