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Humanitarian Affairs

46. Assisting refugees

More than 60 million refugees fleeing persecution, violence and war have received aid from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) since 1951, in a continuing effort that often involves other agencies. UNHCR seeks long-term or "durable" solutions by helping refugees repatriate to their homelands, if conditions warrant, or by helping them to integrate in their countries of asylum or to resettle in third countries. There are more than 33 million refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons, mostly women and children, who are receiving food, shelter, medical aid, education and repatriation assistance from the UN.

47. Aiding Palestinian Refugees

As the global community strives for a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), a relief and human development agency, has assisted four generations of Palestinian refugees with education, health care, social services, microfinance and emergency aid. Today, UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for some 5 million registered Palestine refugees in the Middle East.

48. Helping Disaster Victims

When natural disasters and emergencies arise, the UN coordinates and mobilizes assistance to the victims. Working together with Governments, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, major aid organizations and donors, the United Nations provides much-needed humanitarian assistance. UN appeals raise several billion dollars a year for emergency assistance.

49. Reducing the Effects of Natural Disasters

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has helped to spare millions of people from the calamitous effects of natural and man-made disasters. Its early warning system, which includes thousands of surface monitors, as well as satellites, has made it possible to predict with greater accuracy weather-related disasters, has provided information on the dispersal of oil spills and chemical and nuclear leaks and has predicted long-term droughts. It has also allowed for the efficient distribution of food aid to drought-affected regions.

50. Providing Tsunami Relief

Within 24 hours of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004, United Nations disaster assessment and coordination experts were dispatched. The UN leapt into action to assist the survivors, distributing food to more than 1.7 million individuals, providing shelter for more than 1.1 million made homeless, providing drinking water to more than 1 million and vaccinating more than 1.2 million children against measles. The quick and effective delivery of humanitarian relief meant that no additional lives were lost due to privation, and the outbreak of disease was averted.

51. Providing Food to the Neediest

A man receiving foodThe World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest humanitarian agency, reaches an average of 80 million hungry people in 75 countries every year, including most of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people. WFP food assistance is designed to meet the special needs of hungry people, especially women and children—the vulnerable majority most often affected by hunger. School-feeding projects provide free lunches or take-home meals to some 20 million schoolchildren—with each meal costing just 25 U.S. cents. With over 90 per cent of its staff working in the field, WFP uses a global network of planes, ships, helicopters, trucks and, if needed, donkeys, camels and elephants to reach those most in need.