Spanish artists help fight malnutrition among African refugees

News Stories, 26 January 2009

© UNHCR/R.Otero
Artist Victor Ochoa guides a visitor through the art exhibition in Madrid.

MADRID, Spain, January 26 (UNHCR) A close partner of the UN refugee agency has persuaded some of Spain's top artists to support an exhibition and online auction to raise money to tackle malnutrition among young refugees in four African countries.

The Spanish Committee for UNHCR, with the emceeing skills of UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Jesús Vázquez, launched "Refugi@rte" in Madrid last Tuesday. Almost 50 works of art went on display at the BBVA exhibition hall, including pieces by artists such as Miquel Barceló, Eduardo Chillida, Joan Genovés, Cristina Iglesias, Antonio Saura, Antoni Tàpies and Manolo Valdés.

The art was donated by the artists and various art galleries art lovers can bid for them online until Friday morning. There are a wide range of different styles, including paintings, etchings, lithographs and ceramics.

Some of the images have refugee themes. "A Kite for UNHCR," an acrylic painting on canvas by Genovés, has black brushstrokes symbolizing people fleeing. A hand in the foreground reaches out to help someone. A work donated by the great Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado portrays the tremendous dignity conveyed by an Ethiopian refugee woman.

"I would really like to see 'Refugi@rte' become a yearly meeting point between refugees and art," said Vázquez, one of Spain's most popular TV presenters. He noted that those buying the art would be helping to save the lives of people forced to flee their homes.

The funds raised from the online auction will be used to fund UNHCR projects to prevent malnutrition among young refugees in Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan. More than 4 million children die each year from malnutrition around the world.

"We artists live in our own world, and our sensitivity is as short-lived as a television news programme," artist Víctor Ochoa said at the exhibition opening. "Organizations like UNHCR help us keep the humanitarian spirit alive and allow our work to transcend the purely artistic level."

By María Jesús Vega in Madrid, Spain

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Repatriation and Graphic Communication

Related news stories to Unit plan for ages 12-14 in Art: Repatriation and Graphic Communication

When art and politics didn't agree

Related news stories to Unit plan for ages 15-18 in Art: Art in Nazi Germany - When art and politics didn't agree

Children

Almost half the people of concern to UNHCR are children. They need special care.

Refworld – Children

Refworld – Children

This Special Feature on Child Protection is a comprehensive source of relevant legal and policy documents, practical tools and links to related websites.

Teaching About Refugees, Art

Refugees contribute to the culture of their host community. Some are well-known artists, painters, poets or novelists. Dante Alighieri created the major part of his work during his exile. Playwright Bertold Brecht, authors Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka, poets Pablo Neruda and Jorge Semprun, musician Miguel Angel Estrellas, painters Lucian Freud and Remedios Varo - all suffered periods of exile which, in some cases, deeply colored their work. The theme of exile can be studied in literature, the history of music and art.


9-11 year olds A Response Through Artwork
12-14 year olds Repatriation and Graphic Communication
15-18 year olds Art in Nazi Germany - When Art and Politics didn't Agree

Art

How the theme of exile can be introduced into lessons on the history of music and art.

Food and Nutrition

UNHCR strives to improve the nutritional status of all the people it serves.

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

A funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations in refugee camps in eastern Chad by up to 60 per cent. As a result, Sudanese refugees in 13 camps in the east now receive about 850 calories per day, down from the minimum ration of 2,100 calories daily they used to get. The refugees are finding it difficult to cope. Clinics in the area report a significant spike in malnutrition cases, with rates as high as 19.5 per cent in Am Nabak camp.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

In the meantime, the refugees experiencing ration cuts have few options. Poor soil quality, dry conditions and little access to water mean they can't plant supplemental crops as refugees in the less arid south of Chad are able to do. To try to cope, many refugee women in eastern Chad are leaving the camps in search of work in surrounding towns. They clean houses, do laundry, fetch water and firewood and work as construction labourers. Even so, they earn very little and often depend on each other for support. In the town of Iriba, for example, some 50 refugee women sleep rough each night under a tree and share their some of their meagre earnings to pay for a daily, communal meal.

They are also subject to exploitation. Sometimes, their temporary employers refuse to pay them at the end of the day. And some women and girls have resorted to prostitution to earn money to feed their families.

Ration cuts can have an impact far beyond health, reverberating through the entire community. It is not uncommon for children to be pulled out of school on market days in order to work. Many refugees use a portion of their food rations to barter for other essentials, or to get cash to pay school fees or buy supplies for their children. Small business owners like butchers, hairdressers and tailors - some of them refugees - also feel the pinch.

WFP supplies food to some 240,500 Sudanese refugees in the camps of eastern Chad. Many have been in exile for years and, because of their limited opportunities for self-sufficiency, remain almost totally dependent on outside help. The ration cuts have made an already difficult situation much worse for refugees who were already struggling.

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

The Children of Harmanli Face a Bleak Winter

Since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011, more than 2 million people have fled the violence. Many have made their way to European Union countries, finding sanctuary in places like Germany and Sweden. Others are venturing into Europe by way of Bulgaria, where the authorities struggle to accommodate and care for some 8,000 asylum-seekers, many of whom are Syrian. More than 1,000 of these desperate people, including 300 children, languish in an overcrowded camp in the town of Harmanli, 50 kilometres from the Turkish-Bulgarian border. These people crossed the border in the hope of starting a new life in Europe. Some have travelled in family groups; many have come alone with dreams of reuniting in Europe with loved ones; and still others are unaccompanied children. The sheer number of people in Harmanli is taxing the ability of officials to process them, let alone shelter and feed them. This photo essay explores the daily challenges of life in Harmanli.

The Children of Harmanli Face a Bleak Winter

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

Some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees are children who have sought shelter in urban areas with their families. Unlike those in camps, refugees living in towns and cities in countries like Iraq, Turkey and Jordan often find it difficult to gain access to aid and protection. In a refugee camp, it is easier for humanitarian aid organizations such as UNHCR to provide shelter and regular assistance, including food, health care and education. Finding refugees in urban areas, let alone helping them, is no easy task.

In Iraq, about 100,000 of the 143,000 Syrian refugees are believed to be living in urban areas - some 40 per cent of them are children aged under 18 years. The following photographs, taken in the northern city of Erbil by Brian Sokol, give a glimpse into the lives of some of these young urban refugees. They show the harshness of daily life as well as the resilience, adaptability and spirit of young people whose lives have been overturned in the past two years.

Life is difficult in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The cost of living is high and it is difficult to find work. The refugees must also spend a large part of their limited resources on rent. UNHCR and its partners, including the Kurdish Regional Government, struggle to help the needy.

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

Greece: The Refugees' Grandmother in Idomeni
Play video

Greece: The Refugees' Grandmother in Idomeni

From her small house in Idomeni, Greek grandmother Panagiota Vasileiadou, 82, saw first-hand the bare need of refugees desperate for food to feed their children or clean water to shower and wash their clothes. As a daughter of ethnic Greek refugees herself - who left Turkey in a population exchange after the 1919-1922 Greco-Turkish war - she is now doing all she can to help the latest wave of refugees by giving out food and clothes.
Greece: Health risk to refugee children in IdomeniPlay video

Greece: Health risk to refugee children in Idomeni

Some 10,000 refugees and migrants remain camped out at an informal site at Greece's northern border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The makeshift home is also home to an estimated 4,000 children, the majority of whom are under the age of five. Doctors warn conditions in the camp are becoming dangerous for children.
Syria: Homs war children find home in abandoned hotelPlay video

Syria: Homs war children find home in abandoned hotel

After five years of conflict that destroyed their spacious children's home in Wa'ar, dozens of orphaned and abandoned children had to relocate to a small former hotel in nearby Homs. The abandoned hotel has limited dormitories, no playgrounds or classroom.