A half-billion-dollar shortfall in funds for sheltering refugees is severely undermining efforts to tackle the biggest global displacement crisis since World War II, the United Nations refugee agency warned today, as it launched a new campaign that calls on the private sector to contribute funds for shelter solutions for two million refugees.
“Shelter is the foundation stone for refugees to survive and recover, and should be considered a non-negotiable human right,” stressed Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in a
press release issued by his Office (UNHCR). “As we tackle worldwide displacement on a level not seen since World War II, no refugee should be left outside,” he added.
The Nobody Left Outside campaign is aimed at individuals, companies, foundations and philanthropists worldwide.
At the launch of the campaign, UNHCR underscored that forced displacement, most of it arising from war and conflict, has risen sharply in the past decade, largely as a result of the Syria crisis, but also due to a proliferation of new displacement situations and unresolved old ones.
Worldwide, some 60 million people are forcibly displaced today, the agency said. Of that figure, almost 20 million people are refugees who have been forced to flee across international borders, while the rest are people displaced within their own countries.
Nobody Left Outside campaign. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
“A shelter – be it a tent, a makeshift structure or a house – is the basic building block for refugees to survive and recover from the physical and mental effects of violence and persecution,” UNHCR emphasized. “Yet around the world, millions are struggling to get by in inadequate and often dangerous dwellings, barely able to pay the rent, and putting their lives, dignity and futures at risk.”
Humanitarian funding is failing to keep pace
The campaign aims to raise funds from the private sector to build or improve shelter for 2 million refugees by 2018, amounting to almost one in eight of the 15.1 million under UNHCR’s remit in mid-2015. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) cares for the remaining Palestinian refugees. “Without a major increase in funding and global support, millions of people fleeing war and persecution face homelessness or inadequate housing in countries such as Lebanon, Mexico and Tanzania,” UNHCR said. “Without a safe place to eat, sleep, study, store belongings and have privacy, the consequences to their health and welfare can be profound.”
The agency emphasized that as it continues to face high levels of shelter needs and with limited funding available, operations often face the difficult decision to prioritize emergency shelter for the maximum number of people of concern, over an investment in more durable and sustainable solutions. Outside of camps, refugees rely on UNHCR support to find housing and pay rent in towns and cities across dozens of countries bordering conflict zones.
These operations are expected to cost US$724 million in 2016. Yet only US$158 million is currently available, a shortfall that threatens to leave millions of men, women and children without adequate shelter and struggling to rebuild their lives.
UNHCR noted that the private sector is one of its increasingly important donor sources, contributing more than 8 per cent of its overall funding in 2015.
“There is an important role for the private sector with its know-how, energy and money to act in a spirit of solidarity to shelter refugees from war and persecution,” said Mr. Grandi.
“Proper shelter for everyone is central to social cohesion. Good homes make good neighbours,” he added.
According to UNHCR, the regions most in need of assistance are sub-Saharan Africa ($255 million needed, $48 million available) and the Middle East and North Africa ($373 million needed, $91 million available). Asia requires $59 million, with $8 million available, while Europe requires more help ($36 million needed, $10 million available) as it faces a continued influx of refugees.