World Refugee Day: Aid hungry, displaced victims

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Even on June 20, World Refugee Day, people are being displaced by war or other disasters. The UN Refugee Agency says there are “30 people who are newly displaced every minute.”

The global refugee crisis has reached epic proportions in recent years with close to 70 million people being forcibly displaced from their homes.

The civil wars in Syria, South Sudan, and Yemen are among the worst humanitarian crises of our time. Conflict and natural disasters in Afghanistan, the Sahel of Africa, Somalia, Ethiopia and many other troubled areas are causing displacement and severe hunger.

We see the stunning statistics but we don’t often see the human stories behind the number. Each one matters. Each person deserves care and the assistance the international community can give. There is lots we can do to help those who have been displaced.

This spring a group of high school students from Mercy McCauley in Cincinnati met with refugees being resettled by Catholic Charities USA. The students got to know the refugees and help them get started in their new homeland. The students found they had much in common with them.

Mercy student Lexie Kemble remarked “It was so much fun to interact with people from all over the world. Despite our language barriers, we could still find ways to communicate and the laughter helped bring us all together!”

Up in Rhode Island at the non-profit Edesia, they take things one step further by hiring refugees. Navyn Salem started Edesia to produce the food Plumpy’Nut, which is fed to starving children in developing countries. Twenty- six of her staff are refugees from countries including Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Laos and Syria. They are now helping produce food to save small children from deadly malnutrition back in their homeland.

It’s important for nations to welcome refugees and not fear them. It’s also vital to fund humanitarian aid for displaced victims, because there is not enough resources for them with the ongoing emergencies.

Right now in Syria a massive assault by the Syrian government in their civil war against rebels is taking place. Save the Children reports that shelling in northwest Syria is killing children and targeting health facilities, forcing some to close when they are needed most. Children are dying in schools and even at home from bombings.

Displaced Syrians are fleeing for their lives, some for the second time or even more. Sonia Khush, Save the Children Syria Director says “Entire families of up to eight people are loading everything they own on the backs of small pickup trucks, and are driving north, not knowing where they will sleep next. We have seen this happen over and over in eight years of conflict in Syria, in which civilians are paying the highest price.

Camps are overcrowded and people are sleeping on the roadside. No place is safe in Syria. The military forces in Syria are blatantly attacking civilians. This must stop.

The international community has to do more to end the war in Syria and ensure protection for the many displaced civilians. Humanitarian aid must be funded too. The UN World Food Program and other relief agencies are struggling to get enough resources to feed the hungry. With displacement at an all time high more aid funding is needed.

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”

Warsan Shire