Everyone can make a difference and every action counts
Tanzania has been a model of peace and stability in the East and Southern African region and has had a long tradition of welcoming and hosting refugees.
In 2020, World Refugee Day (WRD) was marked against a backdrop of dramatic social change. Not only had record numbers of people fled their homes to find safety but the entire world is grappling with the devastation of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In Tanzania, like in most other countries, the traditional in-person commemorations that would have brought together large gatherings were not possible this year due to COVID-19. Nonetheless, through a series of activities and a virtual event, the United Nations, together with the Government and other partners, were successful in reminding the world that everyone, including refugees, can contribute to society.
The hybrid approach to the virtual event, which included a mixture of several satellite activities and a social media campaign using media personalities and local celebrities, laid the ground for the main event, which was broadcast on live television to millions of Tanzanians and international audiences. The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Zlatan Milišić made opening remarks, which were then followed by panel discussions. Panellists included representatives of the Government, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), academia, civil society, non-governmental organizations and a refugee.
Mr. Milišić appreciated the generosity of communities and countries that are hosting refugees. “On behalf of the UN family, I thank the Government and people of Tanzania for their generosity. In particular, communities in Kigoma have been hosting refugees for many decades despite also facing social and economic challenges of their own.”
Tanzania has been a model of peace and stability in the East and Southern African region and has had a long tradition of welcoming and hosting refugees. Currently, the country hosts more than 283,000 refugees, mainly from the DRC and Burundi.
UNHCR Representative in Tanzania, Mr. Antonio Canhandula called on the public to reflect on the plight of refugees. He noted that in this time of COVID-19, they were particularly vulnerable but hailed their courage and eagerness to join the war against coronavirus.
“I would also like to invite you all to a moment of reflection and recognition of the small acts of heroism of refugees who are on the frontlines fighting this pandemic alongside their hosts and alongside aid workers. Some are using their tailoring skills to make face masks for their community. Others are playing a key role in disseminating mass information and awareness messages,” he said.
In the refugee-hosting region of Kigoma, other satellite events were held. In Nduta Refugee camp, UNHCR and Partners organized a livelihood exhibition at the HelpAge Office. In Nyarugusu Camp, 26 dialogue sessions took place. The topics touched on issues affecting refugees, such as the importance of family planning, how the community can fight malaria, education, environment, etc. Also, children from Nyarugusu Refugee camp and the host community took part in an Art competition followed by a panel discussion on refugee issues.
WRD is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. Each year it is marked on June 20 and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution.
Beyond the WRD, the United Nations and all partners appeal to everyone to help continue the global movement of solidarity and action. Everyone can make a difference, and everyone action counts in the effort to create a more just, inclusive, and equal world.