Yemen: Life in the camps
Haradh, Yemen: More UN Volunteers than ever are gaining valuable experience via the UNV Intern programme, which places younger volunteers with UN agencies around the world. In 2010, the number rose to 74, up 18 percent on previous years.
For example, Czech national Filip Rames worked as an Associate Protection Officer with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Yemen. These photographs depict his day-to-day experiences and the people he met in his assignment. They were the winning entry of a photography competition held by UN Volunteer Interns around the world.
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“Volunteering with UNHCR in Yemen means I meet people in need, try to help them and contribute to the relief services available,” he explains. “As a UNV Intern I was sent many times to Mayfa'a reception centre in Shabwa Governorate, Bab al Mandab transit centre and Kharaz refugee camp in Lahj governorate.”
UNHCR’s role in Yemen is to ensure that all protection concerns are being addressed properly and that all the new arrivals have access to medical assistance, registration and accommodation. Mr. Rames explains that Yemen hosts about 150,000 registered Somali refugees, out of an estimated 500,000 Somalis living in the whole of Yemen. UNHCR helps provide basic humanitarian assistance and essential services to these people, as it explores methods to successfully integrate them in the long term.
“During my missions to Mayfa'a reception centre,” Filip Rames recalls, “I gathered information on trends and incidents during the refugees’ trip across the sea, monitored the services provided by our implementing partners, and helped run a referral system for unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable persons.”
There are also Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Yemen due to civil conflict in the north of the country, notes Mr. Rames. “We have about 150,000 IDPs in northern Yemen, more than 22,000 in Hajja governorate and 9,500 in Al Mazraq camp,” he estimates.
Before he came to Yemen, Filip Rames worked with different NGOs in the Czech Republic, particularly those focused on refugees and asylum seekers. “As a social worker, I was providing refugees and asylum seekers with social and legal assistance in some of the refugee camps in the Czech Republic and the capital city Prague,” he says.
“In one of the refugee camps we started a photo project with asylum seekers. We taught people how to use old analogue photo cameras and how to develop photos. The project ended up with an exhibition of the best photographs taken by the asylum seekers, which is still being used as part of awareness raising activities for the host communities in the Czech Republic.”
The objective of the UNV Internship Programme is to provide fresh university graduates – up to 30 years old – with the opportunity to volunteer for development cooperation in their respective fields of specialization. This exposes them to development realities abroad, enhancing their professional as well as life skills.
The programme began in 2001 with 15 Italian nationals, and expanded to include UNV volunteers from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Ireland and Switzerland. Each Intern is fully funded by their national government, allowing more and more young people to contribute their skills towards peace and development.
Vladislava Šplíchalová from Czech Government partner Polytechna Consulting reports that the Czech Government is still in contact with former Czech UNV Interns and follows their progress.
“Some of them have got very good jobs, both in the NGO sector and in the field of Government-organized development cooperation,” she says. “In this respect we appreciate very much the UNV Internship programme, and hope we will be able to continue in our cooperation in this field. Furthermore, the Internship programme reinforces Czech cooperation with priority countries of Official Development Assistance.”
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