2012 was a challenging year for humanitarians trying to help displaced people around the world. The following summarizes some of the challenges addressed by the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) last year.
Inside Syria, 40,000 people have been killed and over two million are displaced. Over half a million people have fled to neighboring countries. The U.S. government (the State Department and USAID) is providing $210 million in humanitarian aid to the region, and this aid is reaching millions.
Last year, refugees fled violence and drought in Northern Mali and fighting in Sudan, and even more displacement in the conflict-ravaged eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Kenya, Somalis found shelter in overcrowded refugee camps. In response, PRM staff members directed funding to emergency response and routinely carried out monitoring and evaluation visits to ensure U.S.-funded aid is well spent and reaching the people who need it.
In Afghanistan, PRM helped repatriate and reintegrate over 83,000 Afghans who returned home this year. NGO-run health clinics were transferred to Afghanistan's Ministry of Health, as planned. The U.S. government also supports the UN Refugee Agency's Solution Strategy for Afghan Refugees, which works with Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to protect refugees until they can return home safely and voluntarily and to find permanent homes for them when they do return.
Thanks to the combined efforts of several U.S. government agencies working diligently early in 2012, security screening processes were refined to ensure that bona fide refugees are allowed to resettle in the United States. The three millionth refugee admitted to the United States since 1975 arrived in February, and the program is healthy.
An international donor's conference in Sarajevo in April raised funding for the Regional Housing Program that will help find permanent homes for 74,000 displaced people and bring a close to long-standing refugee and displacement issues in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.
PRM staff joined with other officials to travel to Burma and Bangladesh and assess the aftermath of ethno-sectarian violence between the Rohingya and Rahkine Communities in Burma's Rakhine State and prospects for future peaceful coexistence.
The PRM-led U.S. delegation to the 45th session of the UN Commission on Population and Development in April and secured a resolution addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents and youth and their human rights. PRM spearheaded a successful effort in the UN Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution on “The Right to a Nationality” for women and children.
The United States, led by PRM, has played an important role in international meetings on migration and sought to advance humanitarian goals and ensure that the voices of NGOs and the advocacy community are heard.
As 2013 begins, there is, regrettably, continued and unending demand for the work of this bureau. As I mentioned in my year-end letter, I am grateful for the incredible dedication, passion and energy that the professionals within PRM have for their work. I am very proud to lead them.
Editor's Note: The photograph accompanying this entry shows Afghan refugee children standing with their belongings on a truck as they depart for Afghanistan from a UNHCR repatriation terminal in Pakistan on November 17, 2012.