Putting Our Work into Focus
A picture tells a thousand words - and UNHCR has more than 250,000 of them dating back decades. The agency's photo library in Geneva is guardian of the world's largest collection of refugee-related photos covering nearly all of the major displacements of the last 60 years. These images provide a comprehensive portrait of the lives of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and the stateless in all corners of the globe, as well as the work of the thousands of UN staff who have helped them. Many of our best photos are showcased on this website and on the social networking site, Flickr. We offer the use of our photos free to the media.
Central African Republic: Torn Apart by Violence
Sectarian violence has been tearing the troubled Central African Republic apart over the past month, with an estimated 800,000 people forcibly displaced since the start of December. This includes some 400,000 in Bangui, the capital, and tens of thousands more in the beleaguered town of Bossangoa to the north-west. In the fighting between the former Seleka rebel group and the Anti-Balaka movement, civilians have become the victims in a country where religions had long existed side-by-side in harmony. The majority of those fleeing seek shelter with relatives, friends or in churches and mosques.
In Bangui, an estimated 100,000 people are seeking shelter at the airport, while many others are in churches in the city. In Bossangoa, tens of thousands have gathered at the residence of the archbishop, while many Muslims have sought safety in a mosque or the Ecole Liberty. With Christians and Muslim civilians both fearing attacks if they return home, there are huge challenges to supply them with shelter, drinking water, latrines, food and health care. UNHCR has responded by supplying tents and non-food items to the internally displaced at the airport and churches in the capital. Sam Phelps recently visited Bangui and Bossangoa to photograph the lives of the desperate displaced.
Forced to grow up too soon in Lebanon: Mahmoud
Mahmoud,15, hasn't been to school in 3 years. In his native Syria, his parents were afraid to send him because of the civil war. They ended up fleeing a year ago when, in the early morning hours, a bomb fell on a nearby house. The family, still groggy from being jolted awake, grabbed what they could and fled to Lebanon. Their home and the local school have since been destroyed.
In Lebanon, Mahmoud's father is unable to find work and now the family can barely afford rent.
A month ago, Mahmoud started working for tips cleaning fish at a small shop next to his home. He makes about $60 USD a month. With this money he helps pay rent on his family's tiny underground room, shared between his parents and eight brothers and sisters. Mahmoud is proud to help his family but with the fish shop located in the same subterranean structure as his home, he barely goes out into the sunshine.
Children like Mahmoud, some as young as seven, often work long hours for little pay, and in some cases in dangerous conditions. These children forfeit their future by missing out on an education and the carefree years of childhood. Many are also traumatized by what they witnessed back in Syria.
UNHCR and its partners together with local governments are providing financial assistance to help vulnerable Syrian refugee families cover expenses like rent and medical care, which means there is less need to pull children out of school and put them to work. UN agencies and their partners have also established case management and referral systems in Jordan and Lebanon to identify children at risk and refer them to the appropriate services.
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.
Lebanese Town Opens its Doors to Newly Arrived Syrian Refugees
Fresh fighting in Syria has driven thousands of refugees across the border into eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley over the past week. An estimated 6,000 people were forced from their homes by the fighting around Qarah and the Qalamoun region of western Syria. The desperate civilians crossed the mountains and made their way to the town of Arsal in Lebanon. Most of the refugees were already internally displaced in Syria, some as many as half a dozen times, before finally being forced out of the country. Some 80 per cent of the new arrivals were originally from the Syrian city of Homs. The refugees are arriving in a desolate and impoverished part of Lebanon that has seen its peacetime population grow by 50 per cent since the Syria crisis began in March 2011. Harsh early winter conditions are making matters worse. UNHCR and its partners have found temporary shelter in Arsal for the new arrivals in a wedding hall and a mosque. They are handing out blankets, food packages as well as kitchen and hygiene sets. A new transit site is also being built until better shelter can be found elsewhere in the country. The following images were taken in Arsal by Marc Hofer.
Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines
An estimated 13 million people were affected when Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on November 8. Thousands were killed and about 3 million are believed to be displaced - some of them living in evacuation sites, others on the ruins of their former homes. Tacloban City in Leyte province was one of the hardest-hit areas. A week after the typhoon made landfall, large parts of its coast remain flattened and piles of debris still line the streets. Working with the Philippines government and UN and NGO partners, UNHCR is airlifting emergency supplies for thousands of survivors. The agency is delivering tents, plastic sheets, mosquito nets and other critical aid. It is also co-leading the protection cluster with the government, working to identify vulnerable people and ensuring that they have access to basic assistance and services. UNHCR has appealed for US$15 million to meet these critical needs. UNHCR is now present in Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte province, as well as Guiuan in Eastern Samar province.