A day before World Refugee Day, which is celebrated on June 20th, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has announced that there are about 71,000,000 displaced people around the world. This astonishing number continues to increase and essentially, is becoming an international epidemic. The enormous number of refugees has resulted in overpopulation in camps, some of which are underfunded and have become unsafe.
The Nyarugusu Refugee Camp, located in the northwest part of Tanzania, is a typical example. The UNHCR in partnership with the Tanzanian government established the camp in 1996 in response to the fleeing of citizens from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the past 23 years, the camp has provided food, shelter, healthcare, and other services mostly to Congolese and Burundians. In 2018, the camp population was made up of 55% children, 42% adults, and 3% elderly.
Many of the schools in the camp hold their classes outside under the trees, which can be challenging and even dangerous due to varying weather conditions. About 25% of the children in the camp do not receive an education, and the ones that do oftentimes struggle because they are unable to focus due to very large class sizes, hunger, or malnutrition.
Overpopulation within refugee camps creates unsanitary conditions and has led to the spread of illnesses such as cholera and HIV. Refugee women and girls, specifically, are one of the most vulnerable groups and are at risk of, among other things, sexual violence and gender discrimination.
One of the most serious obstacles facing refugees is how to build a self-sustaining future. When celebrating World Refugee Day and every day, we need to remember that it is our responsibility through our shared human dignity to help those who are brave and had no choice but to leave their life behind regardless of the reason.