Right now, there are nearly 80 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people around the world (UNHCR). That’s 1% of the global population.
Forced to flee their homes, they settle in overcrowded camps and displacement centres, where living conditions are often dire.
People who don’t have a place to call home struggle to stay safe and healthy.
Coronavirus is making the situation even worse.
In congested refugee camps, it’s almost impossible to follow social distancing guidelines. For many families, water and soap are rare luxuries, making it difficult to wash their hands regularly. Household items are also often scarce, and different families are forced to share everyday items like pots and pans, which increases the risk of spreading the virus.
Meet some of the people who have had to flee their home because of conflict in Syria and Nigeria and learn more about how we’ve supported them.
What is a refugee?
A refugee is a person forced to flee their country because of war, violence or persecution.
Over half of all refugees around the world come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.
The refugee crisis is far from over. Every minute, 20 people around the world leave everything behind to escape war, persecution and terror.
They flee in search of a safer place for themselves and their children, often seeking asylum in other countries.
What is an asylum seeker?
When people flee their own country and seek sanctuary in another country, they apply for asylum. Asylum is the right to be recognised as a refugee and receive legal protection and material assistance.
As coronavirus wreaks havoc across the world, families in Syria are still reeling from losing their homes and livelihoods. They’re just beginning to understand what the pandemic could mean for them.
Abu’s home was destroyed by shelling in early 2020. Since then he has been living in a camp with his three teenage children. Speaking to our partner ReliefAid in Syria about his concerns around coronavirus, he said:
“I heard that Covid-19 is a disease that affects the respiratory system and sometimes leads to death. I am worried, because if it spreads here it will lead to a catastrophe as there are no nearby hospitals. I think people will die because no one is treating people.
“Already there are a lot of people sick here due to the difficulties they experienced during their displacement. Our life is tough now, I lost my land, my house, my job and everything. We have suffered and been displaced a lot.”
Abu received ShelterBox aid to help him and his family protect themselves from coronavirus and stay as healthy as possible. He said: “All the materials are important and useful, especially the kitchen set, because we now have our own materials and we do not borrow anything from anyone, such as spoons and pots.”
Fatima was living a peaceful life with her family in Nigeria when Boko Haram attacked her village.
Fatima’s cousin and mother were killed, and her husband was arrested and taken away. Alone with her children, she ran as far away as she could, eventually reaching Minawao camp in Cameroon.
The family spent four whole months living in cramped conditions, with limited food and under horrible circumstances. When Fatima was given a ShelterBox tent and other household items like cooking sets, she felt relieved.
Having a shelter and essential items of her own allowed Fatima to focus her energy on how to earn a living. She managed to start her own business selling food and send her children back to school. Like many others, Fatima is on a journey to a better life. “I will face stormy weather with confidence.”