Around the world, ADRA commemorates World Refugee Day

from Adventist Development and Relief Agency International
Published on 20 Jun 2008
Author: Nadia McGill

Silver Spring, Maryland-The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) joins the international community to commemorate World Refugee Day, observed on June 20, in an effort to draw public attention to the plight of millions of people who have been forced to leave their homes in many conflict areas of the world.

Presently, ADRA is working to provide aid for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in various countries, including Colombia, Cameroon, Yemen, Australia, Sudan, reaching hundreds of thousands of displaced persons through development activities that not only improve living conditions in temporary settlement camps, but help them rebuild their lives through primary health objectives, water and sanitation projects, distribution of emergency supplies, micro-credit initiatives, literacy programs, economic development activities, and other initiatives.

'On World Refugee Day, we as an organization recognize the enormous courage, resilience, and determination that refugees display throughout the world,' said Charles Sandefur, president of ADRA International. 'When we recognize the rights of refugees, we recognize the basic rights of all of us, and recommit ourselves as individuals and as an organization to being the change we wish to see in the world.'

In Colombia, a country with the second highest number of IDPs in the world, according the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), ADRA is helping thousands, providing a means for families displaced by the country's decades old civil conflict, to learn new skills, and become financially independent. Currently, ADRA is providing vocational training for 800 displaced families in El Carmen de Bolivar, a town in northern Colombia with a large number of displaced persons. The one-year project is expected to be completed by December 2008, and will benefit an estimated 4,000 people.

In Cameroon, ADRA recently completed the second of two sanitation projects that benefited Chadian refugees forced to flee their homeland when violence broke out in the capital city of N'Djamena in early 2008. ADRA participated in the construction and rehabilitation of latrines and showers both in Kousseri, and also in the town of Garoua, providing sanitation assistance to 8,000 refugees in Kousseri, and 3,000 refugees who were relocated to the Langui camp in Garoua after the initial resettlement.

Since 2006, ADRA has been working with UNHCR and other non-governmental organizations to aid an estimated 23,000 Ethiopian and Somali refugees living in camps in Lahj Governorate and the Basateen center in Aden, Yemen. ADRA's work provides social services for refugees, including vocational training, legal and social counseling, income generation activities, health care services, and additional distribution of essential emergency supplies.

In Australia, ADRA is assisting refugees in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Newcastle, and Brisbane. In each city, ADRA's projects include distributing food for refugees at their arrival, providing classes in English as a second language, teaching refugees to drive, and giving them the opportunity to obtain a driver's license in order to help them find work.

In Southern Sudan, ADRA has been helping displaced persons returning home through a program that supports the reintegration of schoolchildren in the Western Equatoria State and the Upper Nile State. This project provides 32,000 students with academic materials and sports equipment, as well as training for 120 teachers to assist in the reintegration process. ADRA also provides returnees refugees with hot meals and essential non-food items at rest stops along the way, transports them to their final destination, and follows up to ensure they experience a smooth reintegration. To date, ADRA has assisted more than 60,000 returnees journeying from Northern Sudan to their homes in the southern region. In addition, ADRA has also established seven primary health care centers in Southern Sudan to support returnees and the local community, assisting 105,000 returnees, with each health care center hosting an average of 15,000.

'ADRA's mission is to provide essential services to the most vulnerable people of society,' said Clement Arkangelo, director of the ADRA South Sudan office. 'We consider returnees to be in this class of the most vulnerable. For some returnees, when they return to their villages, there is nothing left but a thick forest where their houses once stood. Many shed tears, realizing that they have to completely start their lives over. However, tears of joy are also shed, because they know that there are people around the world who are supporting their reintegration, giving them the hope to start their lives again.'

According to UNHCR, a refugee is defined as someone who is outside of his or her country of origin, and is unable or unwilling to request protection from their home country due to a fear of persecution, caused by their race, religion, nationality, social affiliation or political stance. By contrast, an IDP is a person who has been forced to flee his or her home, but who, unlike a refugee, remains within the country's borders. In 2007, there were 11.4 million refugees, with 26 million people displaced within their homelands, according to the UN.

World Refugee Day celebrates the lives and contributions of displaced persons across the world. It was designated by the UN General Assembly in 2000 to recognize the courage and strength of refugees. This year's UN theme is 'Protecting Refugees: Refugee Rights are Human Rights,' which aims to draw public attention to the plight of millions of refugees and displaced persons forced from their communities.

ADRA is present in 125 countries, providing community development and emergency management without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race, or ethnicity.

Additional information about ADRA can be found at

Media Contact:

Hearly Mayr
ADRA International
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904
Phone: 301.680.6376