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Children are most vulnerable among uprooted populations (6/20/10)

For World Refugee Day on June 20, World Vision Taiwan calls attention to the plight of millions of people uprooted people around the world, especially children. 
 
According to UNHCR’s latest report, there were 43.3 million people worldwide forcibly displaced due to conflict and persecution at the end of 2009, the highest number since the mid-1990’s. Of these, 15.2 million are refugees living outside their home countries, 27.1 million are displaced within their own countries (internally displaced persons, IDPs), and 983,000 are asylum seekers.
 
To add to the heart-wrenching truth, the report indicates that 41 percent of refugees and asylum seekers are children below 18 years of age.
 
World Vision says that children are the most vulnerable among populations uprooted by conflict. They witness violence, suffer from emotional distress, and very often have their basic rights to survival, identity, education, and protection denied. 
 
Nearly 1.8 million Iraqi refugees are still living in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. Without access to a residence permit, refugees in Jordan cannot work. Selling personal assets and drying up their savings is pushing families deeper into poverty. Even if they resort to illegal casual work, the income is still too low to make ends meet.
 
Firas Abdel Aali, 33, and his young family fled from Iraq to Irbid, Jordan in 2003. They live in a run-down two-roomed apartment in one of Irbid’s poorest neighborhoods.
 
“Life in Iraq was so miserable, full of fear and killing everywhere. Day after day, you would see bodies on the streets and hear explosions, gunshots and bloodcurdling screams wherever you go,” recalled Firas’s wife, Um Abdel Aali.
 
However, while they managed to flee the violence, they continued to face hardships on a daily basis in Irbid.
 
Firas ran a small shop in Irbid before people from the local area destroyed it, threw away his goods and threatened to report him to the police. Firas was eventually forced to close his business.
 
He and his family now survive on a monthly allowance of US$154 from UNHCR, from which US$46 is spent on apartment rental and US$42 on school fees for his two sons. With no marketable skills to obtain part-time work, Firas now spends all his time at home.
 
“We need food since we do not have money to buy it,” said Um Abdel Aali.
 
Recognizing the dire lack of income generation opportunities for Iraqi refugees like Firas, World Vision established partnerships with local training institutions in Irbid, which will provide skills training, targeting young Iraqi refugees and women.
 
Funded by World Vision Taiwan, the industry-based training in plumbing, electrical work, bread making, dressmaking, and small business management will help participants find jobs and start their own businesses.
 
World Vision hopes that these training opportunities will help refugee parents secure greater stability for their families so that the children are cared for and protected.
 
World Vision is working in many other contexts affected by conflict around the world to meet the basic needs of children. It also prioritizes psychosocial support by helping children cope with the difficult situations and stay hopeful for a better future.
 
Aside from conflict-related displacements, World Vision is also recognizing an emerging refugee challenge. Today, an estimated 26 million people are considered “climate refugees.” By 2050, about 200 million people will be on the move due to hunger, environmental degradation, and loss of land caused by climate change. Large majorities of climate refugees are poor and lack the means and resources to survive the impacts of disasters and increase their resilience to future hazards. 
 
This year through the 30 Hour Famine, World Vision Taiwan aims to raise NT$172 million (US$5.3 million) to support emergency relief projects in 32 countries, including provision of food, healthcare, livelihood assistance, and post-conflict recovery support to refugees, internally displaced people, and returnees in Jordan, Sri Lanka, East Timor, Afghanistan, Uganda, Somalia, Northern Sudan, and Angola.  
 
Funds raised through the campaign will also support emergency and recovery responses to climate-related disasters such as Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan, Typhoon Ketsana in Philippines and Vietnam, Hurricane Ida in El Salvador, and droughts in Guatemala.

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