To contain the spread of COVID-19, the government of Uganda started lockdown restrictions, limiting movement and livelihood activities. Previously, the refugees sourced firewood for cooking from host communities. The majority of the refugees did not have access to any renewable energy sources and relied heavily on low-quality fuels, resulting in higher air pollution, and a greater risk of respiratory tract infections and eye diseases, among other negative implications.
The Livelihoods Unit of UNHCR is responsible for overseeing national livelihood strategies in Nairobi, the Kakuma and Dadaab Camps, as well as the Kalobeiyei settlement.
Livelihood interventions help displaced people secure necessities such as food, water, shelter and clothing while also supporting them to gain skills, capacity and social networks. Fundamentally, livelihood assistance focuses on equipping displaced people to become increasing self-reliant, as well as supporting their capacity to participate in income-generating activities.
While the elderly, people with disabilities and refugees are all at high risk, COVID-19 has also led to a surge in sexual and gender-based violence. This is alarming for Filippa, who works with UNHCR on prevention and tailoured response.
Women are at risk of physical, psychological and emotional violence. These risks could increase due to confinement, increased anxiety and deterioration of mental health. --Filippa Dahlback, UN Volunteer Associate Protection Officer with UNHCR, Boa Vista
Since March 2019, Mohamed Ould Zeni has served as a Community Mobilization Assistant with UNHCR in Djibo, in the north of the country. Every day he monitors households and ensures that cohabitation and relationships between local host populations and refugees are as peaceful as possible.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mohamed is responsible for monitoring and addressing concerns about the health and security situation in the Mentao refugee camp. He also works with implementing partners and coordinates the distribution of food and non-food items to 6,489 refugees.
Identity, to me, is what we share when we introduce ourselves to others. It includes the traditions of our country of origin or the language we speak, our religious practices, family customs, hometown festivals and more. Now, imagine if your very identity was continuously challenged – only because you were forced to flee your place of origin due to precarious circumstances like war, political unrest or climate change. This is the reality that asylum seekers, refugees and anyone unwillingly displaced from home, face every day.
To support UNHCR in delivering its mandate, more than 310 UN Volunteers have served with in the Arab States during the period 2016-2019, over 50 per cent of them women. This group of diverse and well-trained practitioners strengthened UNHCR’s capacity to provide protection and critical emergency assistance for refugees, instilling hope and trust in hard times.
Holly finds working on refugee and asylum matters very engaging, especially as the country has long-term ambitions to join the EU and align its legal frameworks and systems accordingly.
"Sometimes just the simple act of listening to a person, listening to their case, is a light of hope [for them]," says Karen Uzcategui Mojica, a UN Volunteer since July 2019. Karen's dedication to the refugee community was evident throughout the interview for this article, as she explained the intricacies of her work.
As a UN Volunteer assigned to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Karen serves refugees, asylum seekers, persons in need of international protection, returnees, internally displaced persons and persons at risk of statelessness.
UN Community Volunteers Milena Reljic, David Georgiev and Nikola Josipovic are busy with initiatives related to the COVID-19 outbreak, as many other development workers are. They help Roma communities, to which they also belong, to tackle COVID-19 global challenges, and ensure that the interests of the Roma are given due attention and delivered upon.