Join UNHCR Canada on various virtual missions throughout the year as we learn about our operations in Bangladesh, Yemen, Venezuela and more.

On August 30 2021, we hosted #UNHCROnMission: Rohingya

On August 30, we were joined on Zoom by hundreds of supporters for an exclusive mission to Bangladesh to talk about the Rohingya refugee crisis. During the event, participants:

  • Witnessed the impact supporters have had on Rohingya families’ lives 
  • Met a Rohingya family living in a refugee camp
  • Connected with an interactive panel featuring Yusuf Zine (director of I Am Rohingya), Iffath Yeasmine (UNHCR Bangladesh) and Jaivet Ealom (Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative) during a live discussion about the ongoing Rohingya crisis 

Frequently Asked Questions from #UNHCROnMission: Rohingya

There were so many great questions during our webinar on August 30, 2021. Here are the answers to the FAQ.

How can we volunteer with UNHCR? How can I help aside from monetary donations?

You can learn more about volunteering opportunities with UNHCR by visiting visit this page. You can also help Rohingya refugees by raising awareness about the ongoing emergency within your network. You can follow UNHCR Canada on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to stay up to date about the refugee crisis.

How do donations make a difference in the life of Rohingya refugees and how do these donations change their lives?

Your donations to Rohingya refugees through UNHCR contribute towards the distribution of urgently-needed supplies such as shelter, blankets, sleeping mats, solar lamps, and more. UNHCR has provided thousands of latrines and built water access for refugees in Bangladesh, keeping families safe from water borne diseases. At UNHCR, our mandate is to make sure that resources are used efficiently, which is why we’re able to allocate 84 cents of each dollar donated directly to the field to support refugees. Our cash assistance program achieves an even higher rate with 93 cents of each dollar going directly to a refugee family in need.

How active is the Canadian government in bringing Rohingya refugees in the camps to Canada should some wish to emigrate to Canada? Do any refugees want to come to Canada? How can we help them?

In Bangladesh, the government suspended a resettlement program in 2010. If, in the future, there are resettlement programs established in Bangladesh, refugees will be certainly consulted. While refugees cannot choose the country which UNHCR will ask to consider their case, they have the right to decide whether or not they wish to be resettled. No one will be forced to be resettled to Canada or any other resettlement country. There are many ways to help resettled refugees in Canada, the simplest one is to reach out to the settlement services provider in your own community and offer to volunteer. Find free newcomer services near you at canada.ca.

What is the most effective help: buying a gift or donating money?

When donating to UNHCR Canada, your funds will be directed where they are most needed, helping refugees, asylum-seekers, and stateless and internally displaced people (IDPs) around the world. In a complex environment with fast shifting needs and priorities, we depend on donors to provide charitable contributions that can be allocated as flexibly as possible. Buying a gift in UNHCR’s Shop and donating directly are both great ways to help refugees.

It is great to see what the UNHCR has been able to accomplish. What are the greatest needs now?

Right now, monsoon season is threatening Rohingya refugees. Every year between May and September, monsoon rains and heavy winds pose a severe threat to Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh. Thousands of people have been made homeless by flooding after monsoon rains inundated refugee sites in southern Bangladesh. UNHCR is on the ground with trained volunteers to help refugees strengthen and rebuild the shelters that have been impacted by the monsoons. UNHCR Canada is aiming to raise funds to provide Rohingya refugees with 1,000 shelter kits.

How could we arrange an awareness fundraiser with the film I Am Rohingya?

InnerSpeak Productions offers a license on their website for fundraiser screening events of I Am Rohingya. This allows the purchaser to host their own fundraising event and screen the film: https://www.iamrohingyafilm.com/product-page/screening-license-non-profit-fundraiser. You can fundraise for UNHCR at fundraise.unhcr.ca.

Man from Yemen carries a child

Humaniti#UNHCROnMission: Yemen was generously sponsored by HUMANITI.

On April 29 2021, we hosted #UNHCROnMission: Yemen

Those who attended has the opportunity to:

  • Witness the impact supporters like you have had on Yemeni families’ lives
  • Meet a Yemeni family living in a camp for internally displaced people
  • Connect with an interactive panel during a live discussion about the ongoing Yemeni crisis

Frequently Asked Questions from #UNHCROnMission: Yemen

There were so many great questions during our webinar on April 29, 2021. Here are the answers to the FAQ.

Is there coordination/cooperation between UNHCR and other aid organizations in Yemen?

UNHCR works closely with sister UN agencies, whose work complements or converges with ours. UNHCR leads in the provision of protection, shelter and non-food items in Yemen and different agencies take the lead in their area of expertise. Learn more.

Is the amount of cash assistance the same for all families or does it depend on family size and needs?

UNHCR meets with families in Yemen and assess vulnerability through a questionnaire. Families that meet the criteria are registered in the cash assistance program and given information on how to access their monthly cash. You can learn more about how cash assistance works here.

If hygiene products fall in priority after education, what do the people going through menstrual cycle use?

WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is a type of programming that UNHCR offers. The WASH programs aim to ensure that all people have access to safe and sufficient water, safely managed sanitation and live in hygienic conditions. This does include menstrual hygiene management materials and facilities. Learn more about the program on our WASH website.

Will the webinar be available on YouTube?

Yes, you can watch #UNHCROnMission: Yemen here.

Why do you think that Yemen isn’t covered much in the media?

Yemen is rarely making the headlines in the media in the Western world or in Canada for various reasons. First, the current conflict and its various dimensions – from tribal to regional dimensions – and the multiple causes of the humanitarian catastrophe – from decades of underdevelopment to lack of resources and the impact of the conflict and the embargo – are complicated to explain. Second, geographically, Yemen is far away and given the absence of refugee flows, the crisis does not have a direct impact on European or North American societies. Third, media have difficulties to access the country because of the security situation and administrative hurdles to travel to the country, especially in the northern part where the impact of the conflict is the most visible, which makes reporting extremely complicated. Finally, media are mindful that the wider public does not want to hear only about problems but also solutions, and in the case of Yemen, the latter are few in between. – Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Yemen Representative 

We keep hearing "the brink" of famine - aren't we well beyond the brink at this point?

Some 50,000 Yemenis (out of some 31 million) are expected to be in a famine-like situation in the coming months if we are unable to provide them with additional support. Those are the brink of famine are the 5 million who are facing extreme difficulties in getting food and other basic commodities. Out of these 5 million are 2.6 million internally displaced families by the conflict – who are the priority of UNHCR. With additional support, we are quite convinced that we can avoid them to fall into the famine category. Our cash assistance programme is absolutely key in this respect, but only a sustainable engagement will ensure that these extremely vulnerable families are supported to buy food, pay their rent or seek medical assistance when needed. And for this to happen, we need more long term funding. – Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Yemen Representative

How is UNHCR helping prevent cholera outbreaks in Yemen?

UNHCR is the lead agency for coordinating activities in many informal settlements where some 1.2 million IDPs live. Given the insalubrious and overcrowded living conditions, these sites are very prone to cholera outbreaks – as well as fires and floods. By organizing the upgrade of these sites as well as by mobilizing both IDPs and surrounding communities in addressing their own needs – including ways to prevent cholera outbreaks, UNHCR plays a key role. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, UNHCR and its partners are only able to cover less than one third of these informal settlements (the most populated). – Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Yemen Representative.

Are there long-term shelter projects or infrastructure projects for IDPs? (Ex. water, shelter, roads, lights, etc.)

While the priority remains the distribution of emergency shelter kits for newly displaced families – who otherwise are homeless and live in the open subjected to the elements and additional protection risks – UNHCR has devised a number of more sustainable shelter options. In particular, it has developed a transitional shelter that can last for a few years and provide cash-for-work opportunities for both displaced and host communities that participate in the production of materials used to build shelters. A number of informal settlements where 1.2 million IDPs live have been equipped with solar-powered lamp (key to ensure the protection of women and girls at night), grey water evacuation pipes or latrines and water tanks. – Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Yemen Representative

How close are these camps to the conflict? Are there any risks of further displacement?

Unfortunately, 45 % of the 1.2 million living in informal settlements are within five kilometres from an active frontline. However, an additional 3 million IDPs live in urban centres, mainly in Hudaydah, Sana’a, Aden and Marib – a bit further away from conflict, however fighting regularly erupts in these cities as well. While we do not have precise statistics, it appears that many IDPs have been displaced more than once, and the overwhelming majority have been displaced for more than two years without any immediate prospects of returning home due to the insecurity and the lack of reintegration opportunities in their places of origin. As the protection lead actor, UNHCR leads the discussions on relocations away from potential harm, but in the context of Yemen where land and tribal dynamics are complex issues, opportunities are rare. – Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Yemen Representative 

There was a reference to 230000 Somali refugees in Yemen. What is their situation like and how does UNHCR assist them?

UNHCR conducted a review of the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Yemen in 2020 and the actual figure is now around 137,000. Most of them (more than 80%) are from Somalia while another 10% are from Ethiopia. For decades, Yemen provided a safe haven although given the level of poverty, a haven that was never a long-term or dignified solution. With the conflict and increasing negative rhetoric due to competition over scarcer resources due to the collapse of the economy due to the conflict and the COVID pandemic, safety is not anymore guaranteed as discrimination and scapegoating is on the increase. A number of refugees have thus decided to use smugglers or traffickers to cross the Gulf of Aden to return home in flimsy boats and unfortunately, UNHCR receives more and more reports of drownings. Not enough places of resettlement or private sponsorships are offered for refugees in Yemen, and UNHCR is their only source of support. Of serious concern, UNHCR receives no earmarked funding for its refugee response in Yemen as all institutional donors earmark their funding to the IDP response. As a result, UNHCR struggles to have a comprehensive response for refugees in Yemen, although it continue to provide them with a series of life-saving interventions – from cash to medical care and education. – Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Yemen Representative

COVID 19 affected the world as a whole and consequently the humanitarian world. How do you see budgeting of the UNHCR projects during 2021-22? Are donors still committed?

Institutional donors have indicated that the COVID dimension of the humanitarian response (throughout the world) was to be fully integrated into regular programming – in other words, there is very little funding specifically earmarked for the COVID response. UNHCR is particularly concerned, in addition to the public health dimension of the pandemic, by the socio-economic impact on COVID which will automatically impact mostly displaced communities, be they refugees or internally displaced by conflict. This is very noticeable in Yemen where these families were working in the informal sector in unskilled jobs which have all been affected by the slowing down of the economy. As a result, refugees and IDPs really struggle to make ends meet and depend more and more on UNHCR’s direct support, especially its cash assistance that is the only way they can buy food, medicine, pay rent or buy clothes for their children. – Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Yemen Representative

If displaced Yemenis are living in tents and camps, who are the families paying rent to?

The majority of displaced Yemenis (3 million) are actually renting rooms in homes located urban centres, while 1.2 million live in these informal settlements. Both the homes and land on which these settlements are located are privately owned, and therefore, IDPs pays rent to landlords – who are often in similar dire socio-economic situations. However, the reality is that many rents are not paid. The overwhelming majority of landlords are extremely generous and fully understand the situation. Solidarity is incredible. But, with the deterioration of the economy which pushes more and more Yemeni families into dire poverty (whether displaced by the conflict or not), UNHCR is receiving more and more reports of evictions or threats of evictions – putting an additional stress on these families. This is why UNHCR devised a cash scheme that is specifically addressing the needs of the most vulnerable families regarding the payment of their rents to avoid evictions and secondary displacement. Our rental subsidies are a major part of our cash interventions, but unfortunately, due to funding shortfall, UNCHR is unable to cover yearly rent. – Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Yemen Representative

On March 25 2021, we hosted #UNHCROnMission: Syria

Syria remains the largest refugee crisis in the world. With over 6.6 million refugees having fled the country and an estimated six million remaining displaced in Syria, the last 10 years have devastated the lives of far too many children, women and men. But there has been hope. UNHCR and our partners have worked tirelessly to provide shelter, safety, and nourishment for those who have been impacted. More than half a million Syrian refugees have settled in Jordan alone. 

Frequently Asked Questions from #UNHCROnMission: Syria

There were so many great questions during our webinar on March 25, 2021. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions. 

Does UNHCR have a program to empower the Syrian refugees?

UNHCR promotes economic inclusion and livelihoods for refugees. We advocate for their right to work and support them in becoming more resilient and achieve self-reliance. Learn more on our website.

How can you send money to help?

To donate to help Syrian refugees, please visit our website.

Does UNHCR have any capacity for assisting refugees with their psychological problems?

UNHCR does offer psycho-social support. UNHCR’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Support programs builds the capacity of local health staff and communities and supports the management of mental, neurological and substance use conditions in health facilities. 

How underfunded is UNHCR in comparison to what needs to be done?

UNHCR has warned that millions of displaced people in need of protection and assistance, and their host communities, are feeling the pinch of massive underfunding, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to increase humanitarian needs globally.

The agency has so far received just 49 per cent (US$4.5 billion) of the $9.1 billion required for its global operations this year (as of September 2020).

To Aya: Do you imagine ever returning home (to Syria) some day?

Aya’s answer: There is no doubt that I still miss Syria and it will be a hard decision to make to return home some day because as I said during the crisis “home is not the same home anymore”. Life basics have changed from water, food and healthcare to being safe! I will never forget my home Syria, the place that I came from, but starting everything from scratch again by going back to Syria will not be fair. I really miss watching the sunset in our summer house, walking in our fields of pistachio trees, enjoying cooking and family gathering during occasions and all the other family members resettled in Egypt, Turkey and Sudan. Briefly, the nice picture is broken. Finally, I will say that I and my family are fortunate to live in a welcoming country that we call home now, a place that you do not feel yourself strange in. and I reached the conviction that “the home is not just a place we live in. Rather, it is more about the people we are surrounded by.

Any idea when the process for bringing refugee families over will start again in Canada, now that the vaccinations are increased?

UNHCR doesn’t receive updates from IRCC on privately sponsored cases, but departures of resettled refugees (both privately sponsored and government assisted) continue to be impacted by the on-going international border restrictions introduced in March 2020 by the Government of Canada. In addition to those resettled refugees who had been issued visas before March 2020, and who are exempt from the border restrictions, IRCC has been able to enable departure of some very high protection risk refugee cases and secure exemptions for them as well for which we have been very grateful. However, we suspect that any larger movements most likely happen only after the Canadian border restrictions are lifted or amended, and at that point we are hoping to see departures quickly ramp up.

As Ramadan is approaching, how will refugees get help?

As Muslims gather in their homes around the world, many refugee families are observing the holy month of Ramadan away from their homes. Your support this Ramadan will be a symbol of solidarity and hope to the most vulnerable refugees.

This Ramadan, whether through Sadaqah or Zakat, we ask for your help to share the blessings of the Holy month. It takes a second to share the blessings of Ramadan today. Learn more on our website.

How can I help and be a volunteer?

To learn more about volunteering with UNHCR, please visit our website

Does UNHCR have a charitable number for donations from organizations that require this number?

According to Canadian tax law and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), UNHCR Canada is a Qualified Donee. This means UNHCR Canada can issue tax receipts for donations received, despite not being a registered charity with a charitable registration number. 

How many families are in Azraq refugee camp?

Azraq refugee camp is home to approximately 37,000 Syrian refugees, and 20% are under five years old.

Explain how the refugees in these UNHCR camps can be linked to sponsors in Canada to come to Canada under private sponsorship. Do the refugees apply first, or do you approach each refugee family to give them that option?

Traditionally, UNHCR has been referring refugee resettlement cases only to resettlement states. Some of these states have programs that allow for matching of some of these refugee families with community groups and volunteers. In Canada, this type of matching is done through the Blended Visa-Office Referred program (BVOR). At this time, the BVOR program remains suspended due to the pandemic, but stay tuned for updates on our website (unhcr.ca) or Refugee Sponsorship Training Program.

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