There are currently more refugees, asylum seekers, and others fleeing conflict and violence around the world than ever before.
The number of refugees in particular is at its highest since World War II. Migration 101 explains the scale of the global crisis, defines the different categories of people on the move and seeking safety, and details policy recommendations for the US government that will respect the rights of people fleeing violence and persecution.
Many people flee with nothing, escaping only with their lives and the clothes they are wearing.
Though some have savings, those resources are quickly depleted when families are on the run. For all, the journey to safety and a measure of stability is long, arduous, and frequently heartbreaking. Oxfam strives not only to help displaced people with their immediate basic needs for clean water, shelter, food, and work, but to advocate for their long-term wellbeing, both in their own nations and in the countries which host them.
“The help that Oxfam has provided us has improved our security,” said Nada Al Musari, who fled the civil war in Syria in search of safety for her family in Jordan. Her oldest son, 25, was shot by a sniper—a fate suffered by many civilians—and suffered nerve damage in his back. The injury left him needing to rely on crutches and struggling to walk. Daily survival has been a challenge for the family, but emergency cash assistance from Oxfam helped cover some of the cost for her son’s medical treatment. “Without this help we would be on the street,” Al Musari said.
A global crisis
Oxfam works with local partners in more than 90 countries. In many cases we are providing support not only to families who have been displaced but to those struggling to make a better life for themselves in their own communities. Some countries have grave humanitarian needs. Among the ones in which we work are:
Fighting in central and northern Iraq has forced 4.2 million people to flee their homes. More than 11 million people are in need of humanitarian aid due to the ongoing crisis.
Families that have fled their homes and those that have returned home remain in desperate need of food, shelter, medicine, and water. Oxfam has reached 312,000 people with lifesaving assistance.
Fighting in Mosul has displaced more than 630,000 people since February 2017. Oxfam has rehabilitated water treatment plants that provide clean water to people seeking shelter in camps for displaced people, as well as for health care centers in nearby areas. Oxfam has also distributed clean water and more than 4,000 hygiene kits (including soap) to 22,000 people in camps. Learn more >
Humanitarian needs in Somalia are escalating as a result of recurring drought and decades of conflict. From September 2015 to February 2017, the number of people in need of assistance has risen from five million to 6.2 million, which amounts to more than half of the country’s population. Almost one million children are suffering from acute malnutrition. We are providing immediate life-saving aid and long-term development assistance to prevent vulnerable people from sliding back into crisis. Learn more >
Fighting has ravaged South Sudan for the past three years, helping to push parts of the country into famine and leaving millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance. More than 1.4 million people have fled, seeking safety in neighboring countries like Uganda, which now hosts more than 600,000 South Sudanese refugees.
More than 5 million people in South Sudan (40 percent of the population) are facing extreme hunger, and 7.5 million people (60 percent of the population) are in need of humanitarian aid. Oxfam has been providing clean water and sanitation services to help prevent the spread of diseases—like cholera and diarrhea—which can lead to malnutrition and prove fatal. In 2016, we helped more than 600,000 people across the country. We are currently providing emergency food to 415,000 people.
Many people have fled famine-hit areas and made their way to Panyijar County in Unity State, where we have helped about 40,000 of the most vulnerable. Some of them are now living in a swampy area on remote islands to escape the conflict and Oxfam has been helping them with travel vouchers, so they can take canoes to food distribution points. Learn more >
The brutal conflict in Darfur, Sudan, that began in 2003 killed and uprooted untold numbers of people—and it isn't over. The rebels have lost ground in recent years so less territory is an active war zone, but without a peace agreement, reconciliation, or attention to root causes of the conflict, Darfur remains volatile. Despite the risks, some of those who fled to the camps and neighboring countries are returning to their villages. With support for agriculture, nutrition, hygiene, clean water, sanitation, savings groups, disaster risk reduction, and peace-building, Oxfam and our local Sudanese partners are finding opportunities to help returning communities gain a foothold and begin to recreate a place they can call home. Learn more >
Seven years of fighting have devastated Syria. Women, children and men continue to bear the brunt of a conflict marked by enormous human suffering, relentless destruction and a blatant disregard for human rights. At least 400,000 people have been killed, and 12 million people have fled their homes. A staggering 13.1 million people require humanitarian assistance, including nearly three million people trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas now facing severe threats to their physical safety and health. We are providing lifesaving aid to those displaced in the Middle East, and we’re helping families meet some of their basic needs as they travel beyond the region to seek safety. Learn more >
As of March 2017, harsh war in Yemen has pushed more than seven million people to the brink of famine and an additional 10 million people are severely hungry. Millions are displaced and public services are becoming drained. Growing civil insecurity is straining humanitarian assistance efforts and disrupting food imports. We are providing families with desperately needed food, clean drinking water, and sanitation services. Learn more >
With the support of local partner organizations, we also work in both organized official camps with tens of thousands of refugees—like Zaatari in Jordan or Nyarugusu in Tanzania—and informal communities and small tent settlements, like those in Lebanon’s Bekka Valley.
Key among our concerns for displaced people is clean water—essential for ensuring good health, especially in crowded temporary conditions. We drill wells, install storage tanks, set up tap stands, and distribute jerry cans so families can collect and store adequate supplies of clean water. We also provide sanitation services--such as the construction of latrines—and rigorously promote good hygiene to help prevent the spread of deadly waterborne diseases.
Our support can also include cash and relief supplies, such as blankets and stoves in winter and vouchers for hygiene supplies in summer. Sometimes, we help displaced families meet part of their rent, ensuring they have a roof over their heads. In other cases, we help them get the information they need about their rights and connect them to special services such as legal aid.
While we help people with their immediate needs, we also engage with allies and all levels of government to focus on peace and find sustainable solutions to the conflict and violence that ruin so many lives.
Enlisting the support of activists—many of them just like you—we push for wealthy countries to be more responsive to this global crisis, and do their fair share by responding to the needs of refugees and welcoming them for resettlement. And we advocate for public policies that will protect the rights of displaced families as they strive to rebuild their lives and guarantee their children a better future—in their own countries or the ones in which they resettle. At the heart of all our advocacy work is everything those families have taught us about human endurance, resilience, and dignity. These are the lessons, grounded in undeniable truths, that we share widely and often.