6 Ways You Can Help Refugees, According To The United Nations

Photo: Patrick Pleul/AP Photo.
A young refugee girl shows the victory sign at a train station in Schoenefeld, Germany, on September 10.
The world is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since World War II as hundreds of thousands of people flee violence and civil war in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the European Commission.

This year alone, 300,000 refugees have made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to seek asylum in Europe, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. More than one quarter of these people are women and children.

Unlike migrants, who mostly emigrate for economic reasons, refugees are fleeing emergency situations in their home countries and cannot go back. They are some of the world's most desperate people, forced to uproot their lives quickly out of necessity, not desire. Many are forced to pack their lives into one small bag as they make the dangerous journey.

The UNHCR is the office of the United Nations that functions as an umbrella organization for fundraising and research efforts related to helping refugees. In solidarity with women and children worldwide, Refinery29 spoke with Jennifer Patterson, a director of communications for UNHCR, about ways we can help, even from afar.

1. Organize. "Women are great at mobilizing!" Patterson said, citing examples of gun-violence-advocacy groups started by women, for women, like Everytown and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has worked to cut the death toll from drunk-driving accidents in half in just 35 years. Women could team up to start a similarly ambitious initiative to reduce unnecessary refugee deaths.

As of 2014, 80% of the 51 million refugees worldwide were women.

Women's Refugee Commission
2. Remember that refugees need help worldwide. With crises under way in the Middle East and North Africa, the plight of refugees attempting to reach Europe have understandably made headlines recently, including the deaths of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, his brother, and his mother, which sparked outrage and action worldwide.

But women and children are fleeing violence and conflict on every continent. As of 2014, 80% of the 51 million refugees worldwide were women, according to the Women's Refugee Commission advocacy group. That's more than 40 million women living in temporary and often unsafe conditions worldwide.

But statistics show that more people have filed asylum applications to leave Ukraine than to leave Syria, according to UNHCR figures.

Applications by Asylum Seekers During 2014 by Country of Origin
Chat courtesy of: Silk.
3. Advocate for American companies to get involved. Patterson suggests reaching out "mom and baby" companies to encourage them to donate funds or products to refugee women. "I think women could really pressure those companies into doing that," Patterson said.

Many women refugees are pregnant, and because of an ongoing funding crisis, some 70,000 Syrian refugee women alone risk unsafe deliveries of their babies due to lack of healthcare facilities, according to the UNHCR.

4. Share refugees' stories when they can't speak for themselves. "Women are able to tell stories better," Patterson said. "They're more compassionate, they're more emotional. I feel like as a woman, I can say that." We see horrifying incidents in the news every day — talk about those with your family and friends, spread the word on social media, and encourage others to get involved in a meaningful way, too. While many of the stories we hear about refugees are sad, don't forget to share the uplifting ones that focus on people making a difference, too.
Photo: Matthias Schrader/AP Photo.
A mother arrives with her child on the railway track at a migrant camp for asylum seekers near Roszke, southern Hungary, September 10, 2015.
5. Keep the plight and needs of refugees on your mind — even when the crisis is no longer in the headlines. "Right now, [the refugee crisis] is in everyone's news feeds, but it's not going to be when the next emergency happens," Patterson said. "These women and children are going to need support for a long time. It's just not a week-or-two crisis."

6. Do your research. Check out the UNHCR's own list of ways you can take action right now. Send money. Sign petitions. Get informed. And visit the sites of other important organizations, like Save the Children, the Red Cross, the World Food Programme, and the International Rescue Committee, all of which are working with the international community to help displaced people.


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