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World Refugee Day
20 June

Statement by the World Food Programme Executive Director


For over two years, the world has witnessed millions of Syrians fleeing their homes, escaping from violence in search of a safe haven. Many families have been forced to move more than once, bringing only what they can carry. The needs of conflict-affected Syrians are huge, almost too big to comprehend: by the end of the year, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) aims to provide food assistance to seven million people, most of whom are either internally displaced or taking refuge in neighbouring countries.

Syrians are not alone in feeling the devastation of displacement, whether within their own country or across borders. Every day, I work with colleagues who are on the ground in some of the most remote and dangerous places in the world. They remind me, as we are all reminded on World Refugee Day (20 June), that every woman, man and child who has left behind homes, family, jobs, education and lives in search of security and safety deserve our attention and, most importantly, our assistance.

Last year, I spoke to a Malian woman receiving WFP food in the Menghaize refugee camp in Niger. She had fled Mali with her children amidst the sound of gunshots; she told me she missed her home, but at least she and her children were safe. In Rwanda, refugees from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have given up everything to escape ongoing clashes. In Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees from Myanmar seek safe haven from communal violence. Ecuador hosts the largest number of refugees in the Western hemisphere, and more pour in from Colombia every month. Kenya continues to host large populations of Somalis. All still unable to return home.

In 2012, WFP provided food assistance to almost 10 million people forced to move – refugees, internally displaced people and those who have been fortunate enough to return home again. This food, along with the relief provided by our partners, brings some security to otherwise uncertain lives.

As an international community, we must continue to advocate on behalf of displaced people everywhere. Whether fleeing conflict, natural disaster or hunger, they must be at the front of our minds.

Ertharin Cousin

UN Web Services Section, Department of Global Communications, © United Nations