World Refugee Day 2021

Imagine being forced to flee your home with nowhere to go. This World Refugee Day meet the people who had to leave everything behind.

Right now, there are nearly 82 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.

War and conflict are common drivers of displacement, forcing people to leave their homes in search of somewhere safe.

But climate change is increasingly pushing people out of their homes too, as devastating floods, droughts and other extreme weather events wipe out homes across the globe.

In fact, it is estimated that by 2050, there could be as many as one billion people displaced by rising temperatures.

Read on to meet some of the people we have supported.

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.

What is an IDP?

Internally Displaced People (IDPs), are people who have fled their homes and their villages but are still living within their home country.

Conflict and violence have forced 45.7 million people around the world to flee their homes and escape to a safer part of their country.

But climate change is also pushing people to flee. 41 people a minute are forced from their homes by extreme weather events.

Floods, storms and droughts will continue to worsen as temperatures rise, affecting people all over the world.

Source: UNHCR, Help Refugees

Safiya, Somaliland


woman sat down next to a green box

“We lost our livestock”, said 40-year-old Safiya. She had to carry their limp bodies from her home out to a field.

Safiya lived in her home in Somaliland for 20 years before the country suffered the most extreme drought in recent history.

In 2019, the harshest drought to hit the Horn of Africa in two decades killed off all of her sheep and goats. “Even our donkeys have died”, said Safiya.

“We’ve had droughts there in the past, but I don’t remember one as bad as the one that has forced me to become displaced”, said Safiya.

Working with our partner ActionAid, we provided Safiya with tarpaulins, rope, solar lights, mosquito nets, five blankets, a water filter and a kitchen set.

Aguiratou, Burkina Faso


Aguiratou was internally displaced after being forced to flee her home in Burkina Faso.

“Because of the concern over our security, we left our village to settle somewhere else. Before we left our village, we were renting, but we could no longer afford the house because we arrived at the new village empty-handed.

“Feeding and clothing ourselves was a real challenge, but we have since been supported by ShelterBox and Help.

“Now we have an emergency shelter, mosquito nets, kitchen utensils, mats, blankets, lamps and latrines”.

Woman in purple clothing with a child playing next to her

Fatima, Cameroon


woman in a bright blue scarf in Cameroon
“When I heard that I would have a shelter just for my family I was somehow relieved but also still worried. I had to start thinking on how to get loans to start a business and stop being a person in need every time.”

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.”

Fatima’s story

Explore more


Conflict in Burkina Faso

We’re working with our partner HELP to support vulnerable communities affected by conflict.

The Conflict in Syria

We are providing shelter for families who have been forced to leave their homes due to the conflict in Syria.

Cameroon

We’re working in Cameroon, where thousands of families have fled conflict and are now living in Minawao Camp.

How does climate change affect disasters?

Climate change is a humanitarian crisis. Find out key stats about climate change, how it affects disasters and people, and what we’re doing about it.

Why disasters are not natural

Read why we no longer use the term ‘natural disasters’, the definition of a disaster, and how we have come to change our language.