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Greg Dorey


Part of UK in Ethiopia

20th June 2013

A new refugee is displaced every four seconds

It is hard to comprehend the life of refugees who have been displaced from their homes. Some separated from their loved ones. Unable to earn a living to support their families. Their children forced out of school and living in compounds not knowing when things will go back to normal. (If they ever do – when I lived in Pakistan I met Afghan families who had lived in refugee camps for three generations, and that was a decade or so ago.)

It is alarming to see the rising number of refugees. In this week’s G8 summit, Syria was high on the agenda, not least because of the many refugees resulting from the brutal and continuing conflict there.


During the summit Prime Minister David Cameron announced the largest single funding commitment ever made by the UK in response to a humanitarian disaster – a £175 million emergency package for the Syrian crisis.

Globally, there is one newly misplaced person every four seconds, often because of conflict (though there are other reasons – such as natural disasters – causing this). There are now some 45 million of them throughout the world.The Syrian conflict alone has created 1.6 million refugees, with more than 4 million internally displaced persons, fuelling this overall total dramatically.

The UK works to support refugees around the world through our Department for International Development’s programmes. DFID provides support to refugees through global level support to the UN refugee agency, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and through its country programme in Ethiopia (where the authorities are admirably welcoming to refugees from neighbouring countries).

But more work needs to be done to evaluate the problems faced by refugees in the wider region – for example, how to prevent the abuse suffered by women and girl refugees obliged to leave camps to gather firewood etc.

In Ethiopia, DFID provides £5 million per year to UNHCR for refugee response. This support allows non-governmental organizations and UN agencies to deliver supplementary feeding for children; access to essential sanitation; transitional shelter; and more.

In addition, DFID contributes £6 million each year to the UN Humanitarian Response Fund (HRF) in Ethiopia, which also supports refugees.

I was able to visit Maiaini Refugee Camp in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region last year to mark World Refugee Day 2012. It was a moving insight into the lives of refugees and the impact that donors can make in their lives. But it would be far better if they did not become refugees in the first place.

This is why our political work to prevent conflict and – where it happens – to stabilise countries post-conflict so that refugees can return to their homes remains crucially important.