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Every hour, 20 children run for their lives

The figures are staggering on World Refugee Day. On June 20, the total number of forcibly displaced people including refugees, internally displaced people and asylum-seekers sat at approximately 70 million, with children making up half the global refugee population.

UNHCR field worker accompanies Rohingya children separated from their families while fleeing conflict in Myanmar. Photo: Australia for UNHCR

Many of these children are unaccompanied, separated from their parents and families, and suffering from malnutrition and disease, violence, abuse and exploitation. In fact, every hour, around 20 children run for their lives without their parents to protect them.

As the number of people forced to flee their homes continues to grow, it is the world’s poorest countries that shoulder much of the responsibility for refugees.

However, generous Australian donors have made Australia for UNHCR one of the top 10 private sector contributors to UNHCR’s emergency and international relief work.

National Director of Australia for UNHCR, Naomi Steer, said she’s proud of the contribution Australians are making to some of the world’s most vulnerable people through funding emergency shelter, medical support, safe drinking water and basic household items like pots to cook rations.

“When you’re on the run from conflict, you leave everything behind and these very basic items often become the difference between life and death,” she said.

“Children are particularly vulnerable. I remember watching hundreds of children arrive alone and terrified across the South Sudan border into Ethiopia. Some of them looked like toddlers themselves, carrying younger children. Separated from their parents during fighting, these children had no one else to help them but UNHCR and its partners.

“I was so relieved when UNHCR workers organised a hot meal – often the first food they had eaten for days – and a safe place to rest or play. UNHCR also looked to their longer-term needs – finding their parents, if possible, or arranging foster mother support, enrolling them in school and providing counselling for those that were clearly traumatised.”

Much of this support is made possible by the contribution of individual Australians. Events like World Refugee Day highlight the importance that everyday actions can make to help refugees feel supported – whether it’s donating, volunteering, reading a book or watching a film about the refugee experience, getting to know someone in your community from a refugee background, or simply researching and understanding the scale of this global humanitarian crisis.

World Refugee Day is on June 20 each year. It is a chance to recognise the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees around the globe. Visit www.unrefugees.org.au/get-involved/world-refugee-day to find out more.

Australia for UNHCR is the national partner of the UN Refugee Agency. It is an Australian charity that raises funds to provide life-changing humanitarian support to refugees and other displaced and stateless people supported by UNHCR.

Jasmine Turvey is Media and PR Officer Australia for UNHCR.

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