Statement attributable to Dr Luay Shabaneh, UNFPA Director for the Arab Region, on the occasion of the World Refugee Day

20 June 2017
Cairo, June 20, 2017- As the United Nations marks World Refugee Day, we should all be wondering how it is possible, in the twenty-first century, to witness the devastating effects of war, violence and persecution on the lives of over 65 million people who today no longer live in their own homes, including over 22 million who are refugees, people who have had to cross borders into another country in search for protection.
This is the highest number of people forcibly displaced around the world since the Second World War, and this finding is shocking. Even as shocking as the finding that the Arab region, home to 5.2% of the world’s population, produces over 50% of the world’s refugees. In fact, the Arab region has a double jeopardy: it produces and is also home for refugees. Syria, the country with the highest number of displaced people in the world has spilled over its neighbouring countries and beyond, with Syrian refugees now living in camps and urban settings in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and beyond in Europe and elsewhere. Most affected by this uprooting are women and girls, as they are often more vulnerable to exploitation.
We at UNFPA, work closely with women and girls in refugee contexts primarily by providing lifesaving health-related services, particularly in the field of reproductive health, so as no woman dies while giving birth. We also focus our efforts on supporting women and girls who survive gender-based violence, a kind of violence that targets them in their capacity as women. In Syria, UNFPA supports 21 Safe Spaces offering services to over 366,000 women and girls. In Yemen, we help run 4 safe spaces, and in Iraq, particularly since the start of the Mosul military activities, UNFPA has been running 21 safe spaces and will open four more in the coming month with services in reproductive health, empowerment and counselling.
With such unprecedented numbers of people forced to leave their homes, we at UNFPA are committed to remain by their side, extend every possible effort to help protect their dignity, mitigate risks around them and respond to their needs.