© UNICEF/Donaig Le Du | A Sudanese refugee sits with her three-month-old twins at a UNICEF-supported breastfeeding and nutrition awareness centre in Eastern Chad.

United Nations, 19 June 2024

“Conflict, climate chaos and upheaval” have forced more than 120 million people from their homes including 43.5 million who have fled across national borders said the UN Secretary-General in his message for World Refugee Day, marked on Thursday.

That’s a record number on the move – “fuelling profound human suffering”, António Guterres added, while at the same time honouring their strength and courage.

Drawing attention to the day each 20 June, is also about stepping up efforts to protect and support those forced from their homes “on every stop of their journey.”

“Refugees need global solidarity and the ability to rebuild their lives in dignity”, he continued.

Given the opportunity, refugees make significant contributions to their host communities, but they need access to equal opportunities and to jobs, housing, and healthcare.”

Youngsters need quality education amid the upheaval, and generous host nations also need resources so that refugees can be fully integrated into society and the labour force.

“Let us pledge to reaffirm the world’s collective responsibility in assisting and welcoming refugees”, uphold their human rights – including to asylum – and ultimately, help resolve the conflicts that are uprooting so many, the Secretary-General said.

The head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCRissued a special statement just ahead of the day, from the border between Sudan and South Sudan.

“The picture is rarely as desperate as where I am now, in Jamjang, South Sudan. In recent months nearly 700,000 people have crossed from neighbouring Sudan, fleeing a devastating war that has taken their homes, their loved ones – everything”, said Filippo Grandi.

Rival militaries began fighting in and around the capital Khartoum in April last year fuelling a war in which well over 15,000 have been confirmed dead, and almost 9.5 million forcibly displaced, including nearly two million across Sudan’s borders.

The last remaining city in Government hands in Darfur is enduring a brutal siege and the region’s last functional hospital, in El Fasher, has been closed due to the fighting.

Mr. Grandi pointed out that some South Sudanese had fled their homeland due to the civil war there and are now being forced back home to villages still struggling to recover. Others are Sudanese – teachers, doctors, shopkeepers and farmers – who must now navigate life as refugees.

“Refugees arriving at borders is not just an issue for rich countries. Three quarters of the world’s refugees live in countries with low or modest incomes – it is false, and irresponsible, to claim that most are trying to get to Europe or the United States”, he said.

He said nations hosting Sudanese refugees show solidarity is possible “even under the most trying circumstances. I commend them for it. But they cannot do it alone. At a time of division and upheaval, refugees – and those hosting them – need us all to pull together.”

The UNHCR chief said there are still many reasons for hope, and the international day is also an opportunity to celebrate progress made.

A bold new development plan in Kenya will transform legacy refugee camps into settlements where refugees will have greater opportunities to advance, he noted.

And in Colombia, UNHCR is supporting a government system to include almost 2.3 million Venezuelan refugees who’ve fled persecution at home in the labour market.

“In Ukraine, we helped to build a platform that supports people who are cautiously returning to repair or rebuild their homes.”

Thinking long term is key, he added, focusing on sustainability, and working with governments, development partners and others.

Let’s not leave refugees in limbo; instead, let’s give them the chance to use their skills and talents and contribute to the communities that have welcomed them”, Mr. Grandi stressed.

Check out our interview with UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Mary Maker from South Sudan celebrating World Refugee Day with an important message for young refugees:

The original article appeared here.

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