SEATTLE, Washington — “More than two-thirds (68%) of all refugees worldwide came from just five countries“: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. This article highlights these five countries experiencing a refugee crisis, taking a look at some of the causes in each of these countries as well as what solutions are being offered.
Syria has the highest number of refugees of these five countries experiencing a refugee crisis. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, the protracted conflict has resulted in 6.2 million displaced Syrian citizens and an additional 5.6 million refugees. According to World Vision, “Indiscriminate bombing has destroyed roads, schools and hospitals.” This has made going about day-to-day life nearly impossible for many families in Syria. Surrounding countries like Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and others have established refugee camps for people fleeing Syria. Turkey has reported taking in as many as 3.6 million Syrian refugees.
Due to the severity of the Syrian refugee crisis, the issue has received more attention and there are countless organizations working tirelessly to assist displaced Syrians. One example of an organization aiding countries experiencing a refugee crisis is Mercy Corps. Mercy Corps works in several countries. In Syria, it prioritizes emergency response, protecting youth and improving economic opportunities. It also provides “essential items including food, clothing, winter survival kits, clean water and sanitation.” From November to April 2019, at least 220,000 people received emergency assistance.
Refugees from Afghanistan
Afghanistan is no stranger to internal conflict. For more than 40 years, the country has been experiencing destabilizing violence. Amnesty International reports “There are currently more than 2.6 million registered refugees in the world from Afghanistan” It is “the second-highest number after Syria.” However, there are many more undocumented refugees around the world living in refugee camps and seeking asylum. Despite their efforts, thousands of Afghan asylum seekers are denied asylum and forced to return back to Afghanistan where they join the ranks of the millions that are internally displaced.
Groups like the International Rescue Committee (IRC) have helped provide life-saving support for many Afghani citizens in need. The IRC has been present in Afghanistan since 1988. The organization is responsible for providing vulnerable families with shelter, clean water, sanitation, and in some cases, employment. During COVID-19, IRC worked to support more than 100 health facilities to aid local communities with training and handwashing stations. Jointly, there are dozens of NGOs hard at work in Afghanistan including Relief International, Good Neighbors International, Concern Worldwide and many others.
South Sudan Refugees
As a result of the largest refugee crisis in Africa, 4.3 million displaced people have fled South Sudan. The U.N. Refugee Agency reports that 63% of these refugees are children. The neighboring countries, Sudan and Uganda have become home to as many as 800,000 people from South Sudan. As a result of the country’s secession from Sudan in 2011, the country has experienced armed rebellions and civil unrest, which have often turned violent. Additionally, there have been mass killings connected with protracted ethnic tensions.
In response to internal conflict, the U.N. has deployed 7,500 troops in an attempt to promote peacekeeping efforts. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UHNCR) has been collaborating with other agencies to build safe shelters, conduct awareness campaigns and provide resources to refugees in need of aid.
Refugees from Myanmar
According to the UNHCR, Myanmar is home to the largest refugee camp in the world, which houses more than 600,000 refugees. A reported 915,000 people have fled to Bangladesh alone. Conflict pertaining to ethnic tensions erupted in Myanmar in 2017. Troops have carried out atrocities such as village burning, sexual assault and mass murder against the Rohingya people, a minority population in Myanmar. The Rohingya people are the largest group of Muslims in the primarily Buddhist country. The government of Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens. This has perpetuated prejudice and discrimination.
The CARE organization has been working in response to the refugee crisis. The CARE organization aims to achieve social justice in areas of extreme inequality. It has provided more than 315,000 people with food, water and basic sanitation in Bangladesh. CARE has also helped more than 180,000 children manage malnutrition through community projects.
As a result of a civil war that erupted in the 1990s, Somali people have been fleeing their homes for the last 30 years. The UNHCR reports more than 750,000 refugees are living in nearby countries. There are more than 2.6 million internally displaced Somalis. Flooding and food shortages have contributed to the problem of internal displacement. Many are relying on flimsy shelters made from whatever materials could be found. Very few Somalians have consistent access to healthcare, food and clean water. In some cases, Somali families have been displaced for generations. In fact, many children have been born into refugee camps, knowing no other life.
The IRC works to provide emergency relief through restoring clean water access, providing basic healthcare and job training, promoting human rights and much more. It has provided support to 280,000 refugees. By the end of 2020, the IRC hopes to reach 620,000 Somalian refugees. In response to the great number of Somali children living in refugee camps, the UNHCR, along with the help of other NGOs, has been able to provide educational opportunities for more than 250,000 refugee children in many different countries, including those displaced from Somalia.
While the world’s refugee crisis is far from over, supporting NGOs in their missions to provide aid and increasing awareness of the needs of displaced people can help combat problems of food and water insecurity among refugees. These five countries experiencing a refugee crisis show that the issue is still prominent. Resolving conflict in these countries is the only way to stop the flow of refugees seeking a safer life.
– Allyson Reeder