MANILA, Philippines - Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie could be talking about kids, literally, as she continues her role as the United Nations Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) special envoy for refugee issues.
In the 2012 campaign of the UNHCR, Jolie said “one family torn apart by war is too many.”
The mother of six was appointed on April 10 last year as special envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, which allows her to focus on issues such as displacements of their families and their children due to war and other forms of conflict.
Today, UNHCR again seeks the same level of commitment as that of Jolie’s to end the hardships that 43 million refugees face everyday.
Based on the latest Global Trends report of the UNHCR, 2011 was a record year for forced displacement across borders, with 4.3 million people becoming new refugees.
It said 2011 was the record year with more people becoming refugees than at any time since 2000.
"2011 saw suffering on an epic scale. For so many lives to have been thrown into turmoil over so short a space of time means enormous personal cost for all who were affected," said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. "We can be grateful only that the international system for protecting such people held firm for the most part and that borders stayed open. These are testing times."
Afghanistan is still the biggest producer of refugees, followed by Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
For the Philippines, the UNHCR has 159,716 total population of concern.
Special focus is in Mindanao, where many families have been displaced over the last 50 years because of conflict.
An article posted by Arjun Jain on the UNHCR website last December said long running conflicts between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and government soldiers have sent families running for their lives.
Family feuds, or rido, have also forced them to flee their villages.
But these communities hardened by years of conflict would again be dumbstruck, this time by a natural disaster. Last year, tropical storm Sendong destroyed many homes and killed dozens.
"I have been working with communities who are forcibly displaced by the armed conflict affecting Mindanao for the past decades," said UNHCR field associate Rasul Kulat. "My own relatives have been forcibly displaced in the past. But these floods have had a more severe consequence to these villagers than most of the conflicts."
Call to Action
As the world commemorates World Refugee Day on June 20, the UNHCR is again calling people to action.
This year, it will build on the “1” Concept, which sought to “elevate the cause of refugees by putting it on the global media agenda, educating the public about who refugees are and they need our help, thus increasing support for UNHCR’s essential work.”
The next phase of this campaign is the “Dilemmas” campaign, which seeks to “compel audiences to consider the same life-or-death decisions a refugee is forced to make when they decide to flee.”
UNHCR said it is aiming to maximize its digital audience by directing them to go to the action page: http://takeaction.unhcr.org.
There, they will be asked to download a “My Life as a Refugee” Smartphone app, answer “dilemma” questions or make a donation.
“For many refugees, the choice is between the horrific or something worse,” UNHCR said. For a lot of people, however, there is a choice, which is to take action, it said.