Cape Town - As people marked World Refugee Day on Monday, designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the world, this year's focus was on the right to seek safety.
Goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and actor Ben Stiller, called for compassion and support for all refugees and those forced to flee their homes.
“Over the years I’ve had the chance to meet refugees and asylum seekers from around the world-from Syria, Central America, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Ukraine. In so many parts of the world, war and violence devastate people and leave lasting traumatic effects.
“Wherever and whenever it happens, nobody chooses to flee their home. Seeking safety is a right and it needs to be upheld for every person. Protecting people forced to flee is a collective global responsibility. We have to remember this could happen to anyone, anywhere,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) warned that food ration cuts were imminent for refugees, as humanitarian needs multiply around the world while funding struggles to keep pace.
The organisation said ration cuts of up to 50 percent were affecting three-quarters of all refugees supported by WFP in Eastern Africa. Refugees living in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda were most affected.
“Severe funding constraints in West Africa, where hunger has reached a record high in a decade, have forced WFP to significantly reduce rations for refugees living in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
“WFP assists on average 500,000 refugees in Southern Africa annually. Despite generous support from donors, resourcing remains insufficient to meet the very basic needs of refugee households and imminent disruptions are expected in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zimbabwe,” added WFP.
WFP executive director David Beasley, said as global hunger soars way beyond the resources available to feed all the families who desperately need help, they were being forced to make the heartbreaking decisions to cut food rations for refugees who rely on the organisation for their survival.
" Without urgent new funds to support refugees - one of the world’s most vulnerable and forgotten groups of people – many facing starvation will be forced to pay with their lives.”
While the immediate needs of refugees remains the WFP’s top concern, the organisation said there was also a need for sustained investments in programmes that foster self-reliance of refugee populations.