6/23/2016 – Trisha Chaudhary, Development and Communications Intern
In 2014, 2,475 refugees fled their countries of origin and resettled in Minnesota (MDH, 2015). Though they hailed from all across the world, the vast majority of refugees fled from Somalia (around 50 percent), Burma (around 30 percent) and Iraq (around 8 percent). Minnesota also welcomed refugees from 26 other countries ranging from Russia to Honduras to Eritrea to Nepal. Though these refugees had the opportunity to make it safely to the United States and reestablish their homes, many others do not share the same good fortune.
In 2015 alone, there were an estimated 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide (UNHCR, 2015). Of those, only 21.3 million were registered refugees with either the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, and only 12 percent resided in the Americas.
In an effort to not only to bring attention to global refugees, but to also express solidarity with them, global leaders have marked June 20 “World Refugee Day.” The United Nations General Assembly officially created World Refugee Day in December of 2001, after the Organization of African Unity agreed for International Refugee Day to coincide with Africa Refugee Day on June 20 (UN, 2016).
This past Monday, June 20, the UN Refugee Agency launched a new campaign titled “#WithRefugees,” urging people to sign a petition to demand that all governments work together to find innovative, humane, and fair ways to accommodate the current refugee crisis. The petition asks governments to ensure every refugee child gets an education, every refugee family has somewhere safe to live, and every refugee can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community. The UNHCR plans to deliver the petition to New York’s UN headquarters before the UN High Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants in September.
WellShare International works almost exclusively with the refugee and immigrant population within Minnesota, primarily Somali and Hmong communities. WellShare has programs devoted to promoting tobacco-free lifestyles, nutrition education, prevention and management of chronic diseases, family planning and reproductive health education, and skills for navigating the U.S. health system. WellShare also leads several programs devoted specifically to youth and adolescents – an imperative feature since nearly half of the world’s refugees are under the age of 18 (UNHCR, 2015).
In the past 36 years, WellShare has trained over 5,000 Community Health Workers in an effort to not only advance sustainable community health around the world, but to also support refugees in every facet of their lives.
UNHCR, 2015: http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html