World AIDS Day: HIV and AIDS remain a policy priority for UNHCR

News Stories, 1 December 2010

© UNHCR/F.Courbet
A UNHCR staff member leads an awareness session on HIV at a camp in Ethiopia.

GENEVA, December 1 (UNHCR) As UNCR staff commemorated World AIDS Day in offices around the globe, the head of the refugee agency on Wednesday stressed that HIV and AIDS remained a policy priority for the organization, while adding that more could be done.

The theme this year is "Universal Access and Human Rights." This was chosen to address the critical need to protect human rights and attain access for all to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. The vast majority of people with HIV and AIDS live in lower- and middle-income countries, where most of the people of concern to UNHCR are hosted.

Noting that some 1.8 million people living with HIV are affected by conflict, disaster or displacement, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres revealed in a special message to staff that "approximately 87 per cent of refugees have access to HIV treatment."

He added that 75 per cent of pregnant refugee women have access to prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission programmes when these are available to surrounding host populations.

Highlighting another positive development, Guterres said that "earmarked funds from non-traditional sources for HIV to UNHCR have increased by over 33 per cent for 2010-2011," and added that "HIV workplace programmes continue to be strong."

Meanwhile, UNHCR's role in countering HIV/AIDS has recently been reinforced through its appointment as co-lead with the World Food Programme for HIV issues in emergency response. UNHCR is already the lead agency in IDP (internally displaced people) crises in the areas of protection, shelter and camp coordination and management.

"We can, however, do more," said the High Commissioner. "AIDS can be better addressed in the Consolidated Appeals Process [for collective fund-raising]. Refugees and internally displaced persons can more systematically be included in country proposals to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria," he proposed.

"More can be done to combat stigma and discrimination and ensure access to prevention and treatment services among our persons of concern as well as our staff and their family members," Guterres added.

"I call upon all our staff and their family members to help accelerate HIV prevention. Let us use this day to promote the human rights of all those living with HIV by keeping protection as the cornerstone of our strategy," he concluded.

Jean François Durieux, director of UNHCR's Division of Programme Support and Management, had earlier called on UNHCR staff in Geneva and offices around the world to organize special events with the refugee agency's partners, including national governments and people of concern.

"I would like to encourage you to wear the red ribbon to demonstrate care and concern about HIV and AIDS, and to remind others of the need for their support and commitment," he said. A three-storey high poster of the red ribbon an AIDS awareness-raising symbol is hanging on the façade of UNHCR's headquarters building in Geneva.

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HIV and AIDS

Read about UNHCR's provision of HIV and AIDS protection, prevention, treatment and more.

Public Health

The health of refugees and other displaced people is a priority for UNHCR.

Health crisis in South Sudan

There are roughly 105,000 refugees in South Sudan's Maban County. Many are at serious health risk. UNHCR and its partners are working vigorously to prevent and contain the outbreak of malaria and several water-borne diseases.

Most of the refugees, especially children and the elderly, arrived at the camps in a weakened condition. The on-going rains tend to make things worse, as puddles become incubation areas for malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Moderately malnourished children and elderly can easily become severely malnourished if they catch so much as a cold.

The problems are hardest felt in Maban County's Yusuf Batil camp, where as many as 15 per cent of the children under 5 are severely malnourished.

UNHCR and its partners are doing everything possible to prevent and combat illness. In Yusuf Batil camp, 200 community health workers go from home to home looking educating refugees about basic hygene such as hand washing and identifying ill people as they go. Such nutritional foods as Plumpy'nut are being supplied to children who need them. A hospital dedicated to the treatment of cholera has been established. Mosquito nets have been distributed throughout the camps in order to prevent malaria.

Health crisis in South Sudan

Kuwaiti Funds Provide Vital Medical Aid for Syrians in Lebanon

As the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon continues to grow, ensuring access to quality health care is becoming an increasing challenge for humanitarian aid groups and the international community. So, Kuwait's unprecedented donation in April of US$110 million for UNHCR's Syria crisis operations this year came at a most opportune time. Slightly more than 40 per cent of the amount has been used to fund programmes in Lebanon, including the provision of vital - and often life-saving - medical care. In the following photo gallery, photographer Shawn Baldwin looks at the essential work being done in just one Kuwaiti-supported clinic in northern Lebanon. The small Al Nahda Primary Health Care Clinic in the town of Beddawi has a staff of seven doctors and one nurse. Between 600 and 700 people seek medical attention there every month and the clinic meets the needs of some of the most vulnerable refugees.

Kuwaiti Funds Provide Vital Medical Aid for Syrians in Lebanon

Statelessness and Women

Statelessness can arise when citizenship laws do not treat men and women equally. Statelessness bars people from rights that most people take for granted such as getting a job, buying a house, travelling, opening a bank account, getting an education, accessing health care. It can even lead to detention.

In some countries, nationality laws do not allow mothers to confer nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers and this creates the risk that these children will be left stateless. In others, women cannot acquire, change or retain their nationality on an equal basis as men. More than 40 countries still discriminate against women with respect to these elements.

Fortunately, there is a growing trend for states to remedy gender discrimination in their nationality laws, as a result of developments in international human rights law and helped by vigorous advocacy from women's rights groups. The women and children depicted here have faced problems over nationality.

Statelessness and Women

Chad: Health for allPlay video

Chad: Health for all

Refugees in southern Chad receive health care under a European Union-funded programme. A new clinic tackles malaria, malnutrition, respiratory infections and more.
Jordan: Getting Health CarePlay video

Jordan: Getting Health Care

In Jordan's Za'atri Refugee Camp, dust and heat are taking their toll, especially on young children.
South Sudan: Providing Health CarePlay video

South Sudan: Providing Health Care

Mobile clinics and hundred of community workers are mobilized to bring health care to the refugees in Yusuf Batil Refugee Camp.