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Africa Is Now Host To Historic Number Of Refugees

June 8, 2016

The continent is housing more than a quarter of the world’s displaced people.

By Eleanor Goldberg*

OBIAS SCHWARZ VIA GETTY IMAGES People from Somalia are silhouetted in sunlight as they leave a makeshift camp for migrants and refugees near the village of Idomeni, not far from the Greek-Macedonian border, on April 30, 2016. Some 54,000 people, many of them fleeing the war in Syria, have been stranded on Greek territory since the closure of the migrant route through the Balkans in February. / AFP / TOBIAS SCHWARZ (Photo credit should read TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

People from Somalia are silhouetted in sunlight as they leave a makeshift camp for migrants and refugees near the village of Idomeni, not far from the Greek-Macedonian border, on April 30, 2016.
Some 54,000 people, many of them fleeing the war in Syria, have been stranded on Greek territory since the closure of the migrant route through the Balkans in February. / AFP / TOBIAS SCHWARZ (Photo credit should read TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Images of Syrians losing their lives while taking desperate measures to escape have effectively awakened the world to the refugee crisis.

But the Syrian civil war is just one of a number of conflicts that’s contributing to the highest rates of displaced people on record.

In Africa, more than 18 million people have been forcibly displaced. That’s more than a quarter of the total worldwide and the most the continent has seen in its history, according to the World Bank.

In Africa alone, eight conflicts have erupted or have been reignited since 2010 in such countries as Libya, Mali and South Sudan. As a result, there was a 17 percent spike in displaced people in Sub-Saharan Africa from 2014 to last year, according to UNHCR.

To help prevent future conflicts and foster development in fractured regions, the World Bank and six other multilateral development banks committed to bringing funds and programs to affected regions in Africa.

The World Bank announced the initiative at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul last month. It approved “credits” totaling nearly $250 million this fiscal yearto provide support for refugees, internally displaced people, returnees and their host communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Great Lakes Region, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Uganda in the Horn of Africa and Zambia.

Together with the six other banks involved, the World Bank is going to work to collect improved data on the issue, devise innovative financing mechanisms and work on country-level engagements.

In Zambia, for example, the project is working to fully integrate former refugees by granting residency and access to lands rights.

In the Horn of Africa, they’ll work to develop “social cohesion” between host communities and the displaced populations by providing opportunities to make joint decisions on development priorities.

TONY KARUMBA VIA GETTY IMAGES Refugees gather to watch the arrival of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres at IFO-2 complex of the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp on May 8, 2015. Dadaab refugee camp currently houses some 350,000 people and for more than 20 years has been home to generations of Somalis who have fled their homeland wracked by conflicts. But Kenya’s government asked the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to close the camp after an attack on Kenyas Garissa University by Somalia-based Al-Shabaab gunmen in April, whom are suspected to have planned and launched their attack from the camp. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA

Refugees gather to watch the arrival of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres at IFO-2 complex of the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp on May 8, 2015. Dadaab refugee camp currently houses some 350,000 people and for more than 20 years has been home to generations of Somalis who have fled their homeland wracked by conflicts. But Kenya’s government asked the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to close the camp after an attack on Kenyas Garissa University by Somalia-based Al-Shabaab gunmen in April, whom are suspected to have planned and launched their attack from the camp. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)

The World Bank has also called for an alternative to refugee camps, saying they “aren’t the answer in the long term.”

That statement comes at a time when experts remain divided over the closing of all refugee camps in Kenya. 

The country made the announcement last month, a decision which would displace 600,000 people, CNN reported.

The government said the decision was motivated by the “very heavy” economic, security and environmental burdens of the camps.

A number of humanitarian aid groups, including Doctors Without Borders, came out against the decision.

“We see these different examples of people being pushed back into crises,” Jason Cone, executive director of Doctors Without Borders, told HuffPost in May of the decision to close the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. “For us, that’s really tearing at the fabric of the most basic protections that international law, and the conventions, that most states have joined are responsible to uphold.”

Daadab has been home to about 350,000 Somali refugees. 

Cone was speaking to HuffPost about the organization’s decision to pull out of the World Humanitarian Summit due to concerns that the event wouldn’t effectively address pressing human rights issues.

Still, the World Bank remains hopeful about the disposition of people residing in refugee camps and of their prospects for the future.

“Despite the hardships, many long-term camps are buzzing with activity,” Vara Vemuru, World Bank senior social development specialist, said in a statement, “a place where people are concerned about today, yet hopeful about tomorrow.”

*Huffpost

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