A huge shortfall in funds for sheltering refugees is severely undermining efforts to tackle the biggest global displacement crisis since World War II, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, warned today.
At the launch today of a new global campaign, called "Nobody Left Outside," UNHCR said efforts to provide adequate shelter for refugees under its care were facing a half-billion-dollar deficit. Nobody Left Outside calls on the private sector to contribute funds for shelter solutions for 2 million refugees. The campaign is aimed at individuals, companies, foundations and philanthropists worldwide.
Forced displacement, most of it arising from war and conflict, has risen sharply in the past decade, largely a result of the Syria crisis, but also due to a proliferation of new displacement situations and unresolved old ones. Some 60 million people are today forcibly displaced, almost 20 million of them refugees who have been forced to flee across international borders, and the rest people displaced within their own countries. Humanitarian funding is failing to keep pace.
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. 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.
"Shelter is the foundation stone for refugees to survive and recover, and should be considered a non-negotiable human right," said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "As we tackle worldwide displacement on a level not seen since World War 2, no refugee should be left outside."
The Nobody Left Outside 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. Without a safe place to eat, sleep, study, store belongings and have privacy the consequences to their health and welfare can be profound.
Providing shelter on a global scale is a massive logistical undertaking. Every year, UNHCR purchases 70,000 tents and more than 2 million tarpaulins, which have come to symbolize the response to humanitarian emergencies.
However, as UNHCR 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 which threatens to leave millions of men, women and children without adequate shelter and struggling to rebuild their lives.
The Nobody Left Outside campaign is asking private donors and enterprises to get more involved. The private sector is an increasingly important donor source for UNHCR, contributing more than eight per cent of the organization's 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 High Commissioner Grandi, adding that the provision of adequate shelter could ease tensions between refugees and host communities. "We must find better ways of peacefully integrating refugees into our host communities," said Grandi. "Proper shelter for everyone is central to social cohesion. Good homes make good neighbours."
The regions most in need of assistance are sub-Saharan Africa (US$255m needed, US$48m available) and the Middle East and North Africa (US$373m needed, US$91m available). Asia requires US$59m, with only US$8m available, and Europe also requires significantly more help (US$36m needed, US$10m available) as it faces a continued influx of refugees.
To support Nobody Left Outside, go to www.nobodyleftoutside.org