Recently, 163 Syrians arrived in Toronto, filled with joy and relief. They can finally – even for just a moment – stop worrying about whether there will be enough food on the table for tomorrow, or if there will be another tomorrow at all.
But this is not the case for the other eight million Syrians who are still internally displaced or seeking refuge in other countries. When we expand to look at the number of refugees world wide, that number rises to a staggering 59.5 million – one in every 122 humans on our planet. And half of the displaced population are children.
For those forced to flee because of conflict, opportunities in a new country are severely limited by language, age, legal status or physical abilities. Their first priority is survival, seeking enough food and finding a safe shelter. The fact that nearly 86% of the world’s refugees are in regions and countries considered economically less developed makes the situation even more challenging.
This is where Action Against Hunger steps in. Our teams work with local partners to provide displaced families with clean water, distribute hygiene kits, and build latrines for families living in camps. We work to secure access to nutritious food through food parcels and kitchen kits for families. We’ve implemented income generation activities to help give families greater flexibility to earn and spend money on necessities as they see fit.
We are currently supporting those in countries with the highest population of displaced people caused by war and conflicts, including Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. But we also know that the challenge does not remain confined by those borders: neighbouring countries require support as well.
As an example, Action Against Hunger began working in Lebanon in 2006 in response to the Lebanese-Israeli conflict. Lebanon is now hosting the largest number of refugees from Syria. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), by the end of 2015 more than 1.8 million people will have fled to Lebanon. Action Against Hunger has been working with both Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese communities for the past nine years through cash-based support, including cash grants, e-card vouchers, income-generation activities, livelihoods support and more. Action Against Hunger’s efforts have also improved water storage and systems and sanitation facilities such as school latrines in the country.
The act of migrating may take hours, days or several months. Caring for the influx of millions of people escaping war and trauma often presents the bigger challenge. The responsibility to ensure basic human rights such as access to food, shelter and safety cannot fall only on host countries. It is a task for everyone in the world.
This International Migrants Day, with the number of displaced population hitting an all-time high, it is more important than ever that we stand with those who risk their lives to find safety, shelter, and a life free of violence.