Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of The Big Heart Foundation, outlines six challenges facing refugees and proposes ways to tackle them
Today, the world is witnessing the highest levels of human displacement in recorded history. Every two seconds a person is being forced to seek refuge due to conflicts or persecution. A frightening 68.5 million people around the world are now displaced, with an overwhelming 25.4 million of them children under the age of 18.
Notwithstanding an increase in humanitarian aid worldwide, these initiatives are not regulated efficiently enough to develop into sustainable projects that will bring a sense of normalcy to the displaced.
A deeper understanding of the refugees’ problems is required for humanitarian aid entities to be able to identify their needs.
During the course of my work as the director of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide, I have been able to identify six main challenges hindering the collective efforts of institutions in tackling the refugee crisis, especially in the MENA region.
The first challenge is in convincing the world at large that the forced displacement of refugees does not strip them of their rights as human beings. Typically, refugees are provided with the bare minimum to survive. The truth is they have the rights of every human being, apart from the rights of refugees. These compound rights must be acknowledged and made known to all members of society.
The second challenge is the lack of comprehensive knowledge about laws, which is a major hurdle. Refugees should be treated according to international laws wherever they may reside, instead of local/regional laws.
Weak community involvement is the third challenge. Typically, humanitarian aid is provided through institutions. However, it should not stop there. Community participation in supporting refugees is necessary, whether the support is emotional or financial. For instance, communities could actively support and aid refugees by organising campaigns at schools and universities to donate a day’s allowance to refugees. This would help the younger generations to empathise with them and become a part of the solution.
With poor community involvement, comes the fourth challenge, which is how to keep highlighting the refugees’ plight.
I propose a greater involvement with academic and social institutions to hold brainstorming sessions to bring forth new ideas to help refugees and support their right to live in a decent manner. The outcome of such an initiative implemented globally could result in real solutions that can be utilised by local as well as international humanitarian institutions.
Financial support is a very real obstacle that needs to be tackled very differently, which brings us to our next challenge. For a sustainable solution, financial institutions must support training programmes designed to empower refugees and help them start SMEs. This would not only help them become financially independent, but also secure them emotionally and psychologically, bringing a sense of normalcy in their displaced lives. It would also benefit the host country financially.
The sixth challenge is the one-sided story that always emanates from this sector. The refugee plight is always voiced through humanitarian institutions. It is now time for refugees to come forth and tell the world about their problems and needs. Putting a human face to the problem is the need of the hour.