World Vision is calling for New Zealand to work harder to meet its refugee quota in the wake of a new report which shows that life has deteriorated significantly in the past two years for refugees in 11 hard-hit countries.
The new report, Hungry and Unprotected Children: The Forgotten Refugees, surveyed refugees and internally displaced people from countries such as Syria, South Sudan, and Venezuela.
It found that 82% of refugees were not able to meet their basic needs, such as food, healthcare, or rent. Nearly four out of five refugees could not meet their daily nutritional needs, with a third of caregivers reporting that children had lost weight in the past year.
World Vision National Director, Grant Bayldon says a devastating combination of conflict, Covid-19, and climate change means there are more people being forcibly displaced than ever before – some 90 million people in 2021.
He says in 2021-22, New Zealand filled less than half of its normal refugee quota of 1,500 and while Covid-19-related border closures had an impact, now is the time for the country to do more.
“Covid 19 was hard for us here in Aotearoa New Zealand, but we know that the impact of Covid 19 on refugee children can have a devastating lifelong impact.
“Unfortunately, for millions of refugee children, education is now a fantasy. Instead, many families are in such a desperate situation, that the new reality is child marriage and child labour. The injustice is heart-breaking,” Bayldon says.
The Hungry and Unprotected report finds that many refugee and internally displaced children are missing out on education, along with the security and support of being in a classroom.
Bayldon says the report also highlights the impact Covid-19 has had on the health of refugees, with one in four of those surveyed reporting the death of a family member, mostly due to Covid-19.
“Access to the Covid-19 vaccine has been inequitable across the world. The world’s least wealthy countries have received a pitiful 1.4% of available vaccines since the pandemic began. Millions of displaced people can still not access the vaccine and are at high risk. It is a sad indictment on those with the means to help,” he says.
The precarious safety of refugee children is also in the spotlight, as many find it impossible to access the services they urgently need. Around half of the refugee children did not have access to a safe shelter and 44% did not have access to child protection services.
Bayldon says the fall-out from the crisis in Ukraine and the impact of the conflict on food supplies, along with rising costs, means that the coming year will likely be worse for refugees.
He says there is a looming worldwide hunger crisis, with many countries in east and west Africa on the brink of starvation.
“As the world rightly reaches out to support refugees fleeing Ukraine, we urge those who have political power to prioritise the lives of all refugees and internally displaced people around the world.
“And on World Refugee Day, when we turn our minds to the significant plight of refugees and displaced people, we urge New Zealand to adopt a stronger humanitarian response. New Zealand needs to lead from the front and work harder to meet our refugee quota targets. We need to play our part as a global citizen by providing settlement options for children and families whose lives have been changed in an instant due to conflict, hunger and disaster.”
World Vision works in numerous countries around the world to help refugees and internally displaced people survive, recover and build a future. You can support this work by donating here: https://www.worldvision.org.nz/give-now/childhood-rescue/
You can read the full report, Hungry and Unprotected Children: The Forgotten Refugees, here: https://wvnz.org.nz/wrd-report-2022