Thursday, February 10, 2005


UNHCR update

The latest from UNHCR:

At the crossroads of conflict and human rights, UNHCR is on the scene.
Here is your Insider Update:
1) Darfur – Crimes Against Humanity

2) Helping Tsunami Survivors Village by Village

Dear Friend of Refugees,

1. Darfur – Crimes Against Humanity

As diplomats and world leaders debatethe words used to describe the horrors of Darfur -- genocide or crimes against humanity -- UNHCR, an apolitical, humanitarian organization, is working to save and protect the victims of the crisis in Darfur, Sudan.

Some 200,000 refugees have reached the safety of camps in Chad. This past weekend, the Chairman of UNHCR’s Executive Committee, Ambassador Hernán Escudero Martínez, visited Oure Cassoni refugee camp in the Bahai region of northeastern Chad, home to over 25,000 refugees from Darfur. Refugee leaders told Ambassador Martínez they feel safe in the camp and do not want to return home yet because of the continuing violence.

The camp is one of 11 refugee sites established in the arid region of Chad since January 2004. UNHCR has put in place shelters, health clinics, and water and sanitation facilities for tens of thousands of refugees here.

"I'm very impressed with the organization of the camp and the strength of the refugees, especially after what these women, men and children have gone through and the violence they have witnessed in their country," said Martínez.

Refugee women in Oure Cassoni also stressed how safe they feel in the camp. They noted that they regularly receive food and other assistance and that clinics and community centers are in place and running smoothly. But they also want UNHCR and the other international agencies to focus more on education for their children in the camp.

The Martínez delegation then traveled to Dorti camp for displaced persons near El Geneina in Darfur and toured one of several Women's Centers established by UNHCR, where women find peer support and produce handicrafts for sale. The women said that if they ventured out of the camp to collect firewood, they could be attacked. The displaced people in Dorti camp and their leaders said that safety remains a major problem.

One thing is certain: the deaths and suffering from this man-made disaster increase daily. Only through a strong and lasting commitment from UNHCR and global citizens like you can lives be saved.

To help UNHCR provide live-saving assistance for those that have fled violence in Darfur click here: Chad - Sudan Emergency

2. Helping Tsunami Survivors Village by Village

In the small fishing village of Keude Panga in Indonesia's Aceh province, UNHCR is on the ground delivering emergency shelter and supplies and laying the groundwork for rebuilding the entire community. The relief operation is a microcosm of UNHCR's efforts to assist Indonesia's victims of the Tsunami. The airlift to Keude Panga began earlier in the week, transferring emergency supplies to 2,000 people. UNHCR brought eight tons of tents, blankets, kitchen sets, and mattresses. The relief was palpable and the supplies were much needed. This village, like many others in Aceh, is cut off from UNHCR’s operational bases in the towns of Calang and Meulaboh because of ruined bridges and roads. Despite these obstacles, UNHCR will continue to send in live-saving supplies by helicopter.

In the destroyed fishing village of Krueng Sabe, UNHCR, Indonesian authorities and other organizations are working together to rebuild the community. Half of the population was swept away in the Tsunami, leaving 4,000 displaced. The fishing families that survived have made it clear that despite the disaster, the village is their home and they do not wish to relocate. Respecting the villagers' wishes, the proposed rebuilding plan will include the development of permanent shelters but also essential community infrastructure, including mosques, health, water, sanitation and education facilities. Special attention will be given to the needs of vulnerable groups, like separated children, single parent families and the elderly. In the meantime, UNHCR erected some 500 tents over the last week as temporary housing for those without homes.

In Sri Lanka, more than 160,000 people have received UNHCR plastic sheeting along with non-food relief items. UNHCR is also working with local authorities in the south and northeast to supply 2,000 tents to the people who need them most -- vulnerable families or those who have been sleeping in public buildings like schools. Another 2,500 tents arrived this past weekend and an additional 5,500 are set to arrive from Jordan in mid-February.

Throughout the affected areas, UNHCR is conducting a survey to find out more about the relocation preferences and needs of those who are unable to return to their homes. UNHCR has stressed repeatedly that relocation must be voluntary and that survivors must be consulted before any move is undertaken.To help UNHCR rebuild the lives of tsunami survivors click here: Asia Tsunami Relief

Caryl GarcíaExecutive DirectorUSA for UNHCR
P.S. Encourage educators in your community to become involved in raising awareness about the plight of refugees. Share the UNHCR World Refugee Day Poster Contest with schools, and help students make a difference. Deadline for entries is March 15, 2005. For more information about the contest visit


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