News Stories, 22 May 2013
BEIRUT, Lebanon, May 22 (UNHCR) – Sharjah's Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al-Qasimi has called on the Arab world and the international community to do more to help Syrian refugees after visiting families living in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon.
"This is not a Syrian problem or a Lebanese problem, or even an Arab problem – although the Arab world should take the lead in helping our neighbours," said Sheikha Jawaher, who was in Lebanon last week on her first mission as UNHCR's only Eminent Advocate.
"The enormity of the problems we are witnessing first-hand can only be resolved through the collective efforts of the entire international community," she stressed, while adding that it was "time to show that we are one world and our heart is big enough to comfort every refugee child."
During her one-day trip, Her Highness met Syrian refugee women at a community centre in the Lebanese capital and discussed the challenges they face. She later met Syrian children studying at a state-run school in Beirut under a UNHCR-backed refugee education programme.
Sheikha Jawaher's humanitarian mission to Lebanon came at a time when the number of refugees fleeing the two-year conflict in Syria continues to rise sharply. Today, more than 470,000 refugees are assisted by UNHCR and other organizations in Lebanon. The total number of Syrians registered as refugees or waiting to be registered has passed the 1.5 million mark.
The royal visitor praised the determination and resilience of the refugees. "The fact that some refugees are willing to navigate through minefields and mortar fire to reach Lebanon, illustrates just how determined they are to create better lives for their children," she said after talking to the refugees at the women's community centre.
She also stressed the importance of the registration process, recounting her meeting with a boy who had arrived in Lebanon unaccompanied and had no idea if his family was dead or alive. "This makes the registration process ever more crucial, in the sense that it can help reunite children with their parents or family," she said.
Ninette Kelly, UNHCR's representative in Lebanon, welcomed the visit of Sheikha Jawaher, who is the wife of Sharjah's ruler, Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qasimi. "I am confident her compassionate voice will help relay stories of hardship and resilience of hundreds of thousands of refugees to her country and the Arab World."
Sheikha Jawaheri was appointed as UNHCR's first Eminent Advocate earlier this month. In this role, she will help increase public awareness in the Middle East and elsewhere about refugees and the work of UNHCR, with a special focus on refugee children.
She is well known in the region for her humanitarian work and has devoted herself to helping victims of conflict, especially children. She chairs more than a dozen organizations working on behalf of vulnerable women and children, including Sharjah's Supreme Council for Family Affairs. Sheikha Jawaher is a valued supporter of UNHCR and has provided the refugee agency with funding to provide health care for displaced Somali women.