20 June (yesterday) was World Refugee Day, a day to honour the courage, strength, and contributions of millions of people worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, war, or persecution. It’s a day to remember that with help from hosting communities and neighbours, people can rebuild their lives and networks and even thrive.
This year’s theme is “Everyone has the right to asylum. Whoever they are. Wherever they come from. Whenever they need it.”
In Zimbabwe, World Refugee Day celebrations took place in Tongogara Refugee Camp in Manicaland Province. UNHCR, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, and partners, organized the commemoration in the camp with refugees and asylum-seekers. Together they remembered the importance of welcoming newcomers into their communities. Those forced to flee bring their cultures, unique experiences, and hope – all of which make any community stronger and more vibrant.
The celebrations in the refugee camp included a wide range of entertainment activities organized by refugees and asylum-seekers, from performances of traditional dance groups to refugee children reading poems and singing the national anthem.
The Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare donated food hampers containing basic necessities for an average family to all residents in the refugee camp.
The Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Professor Paul Mavima, said, “the Government is alive to its international obligation to receive and protect refugees and asylum seekers. The need to empower persons of concern in terms of livelihoods need not be over-emphasized. The Government of Zimbabwe will continue to avail arable land for the expansion of the irrigation scheme in Tongogara to benefit refugees and the host community to ensure peaceful co-existence.”
The attendees at the celebration in Tongogara visited some projects in the camp supporting refugees and the host community’s self-reliance, namely the irrigation scheme, the hydroponics project, the new school building for children with disabilities, and an organization led by young refugees dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship among youths.
The UNHCR Representative in Zimbabwe, Abdoulaye Barry, stated that “it is our collective responsibility to ensure that people have access to the refuge. But our responsibility does not end there. Once they are out of harm’s way, people who have been forced to leave their homes and almost everything else behind need a chance to rebuild.”
During the celebrations, UNHCR and UNDP inaugurated the new solar panels installed in UNHCR’s field office in Tongogara Refugee Camp, with the support of the Green Energy Team (GET) of UNDP’s Information & Technology Management (ITM).
The key driving factor for UNHCR to install a solar photovoltaic panel solution is to cover critical load while simultaneously reducing CO2 emissions and promoting sustainable development in the country. This clean energy solution is not dependent on generator fuel, covers 99% of critical loads of UNHCR’s, Government’s, and partner’s offices in Tongogara Refugee Camp, and allows for estimated yearly savings of 8.530 kg of CO2.
The UNDP Resident Representative in Zimbabwe, Mia Seppo, who participated in the inauguration and the celebrations in the refugee camp, pointed out that “this smart facility with UNHCR shows UNDP’s commitment to greening its operations. We recognize that while we partner with the Government on environmental policy and sustainability projects, we also need to walk the talk,” said Seppo.
The Government of Zimbabwe hosts over 22,600 refugees and asylum-seekers. Most of them reside at Tongogara Refugee Camp. Approximately 74% of the refugees and asylum-seekers registered by UNHCR are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while 11% come from Mozambique, 6% from Burundi, 5% from Rwanda, and 4% from other nationalities.
Globally, the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations, and persecution has now crossed the staggering milestone of 100 million for the first time on record, propelled by the war in Ukraine and other deadly conflicts. In addition, there is renewed violence in places where protracted crises continue, such as Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
UNHCR’s mandate is to safeguard the rights and well-being of people forced to flee. Together with partners and communities, we work to ensure that everybody has the right