The commissioner of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grand wants the world to pay more attention to Africa with respect to addressing the current refugee crisis.
Speaking to journalists at the Kenyan-based Daadab Refugee Center, the world’s largest refugee camp, Grand said more needs to be done to help millions of refugees and internally displaced persons in Africa.
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The Italian-born commissioner also promised to push for more relief aid that will cater for refugees and migrants living in some of the world’s poorest countries in Africa, including Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya.
“You know, it is very difficult to fund programs in Africa. I am not ashamed to say it,” Grand was quoted by AFP.
His statement comes at a time when the continent is dealing with a major refugee and migrant crisis as more Africans attempt to reach Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.
UNHCR estimates that over 18 million people in Africa are living as refugees and the number is expected to rise due to the ongoing crises in South Sudan, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The humanitarian organization is working tirelessly to provide the displaced persons with essential services such as healthcare, security, food and education, but the soaring number of people in need of aid means the organization requires more donations and contributions from the international community and well-wishers.
Grand toured the Kenyan refugee camp to witness the ongoing voluntary repatriation of close to 300,000 Somali refugees who have been living in the camp for more than two decades following the outbreak of a deadly civil war in 1993.
But with the ongoing peacekeeping mission in Somalia, Kenyan authorities believe the refugees are safe to voluntarily go back home. Meanwhile, the UN has urged the Kenyan government to exercise restraint during the repatriation, insisting that all deportations must be voluntary.
However, Kenyan officials argue that the camp, which hosts refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan, is being used by the Somali-based terror group al-Shabaab as its recruiting and training ground.
The decision to close the camp was made in May 2016 following a deadly attack by al-Shabaab on Garissa University, which is located just a few kilometers away from the camp. According to the Kenyan government, the attack, which left over 150 students dead, was planned inside the refugee camp.
The World Policy estimates that more than 45,000 refugees have already returned to Kismaayo, while significant numbers have gone back to Baydhabo and Mogadishu.