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Help to survive and thrive

With global population displacement at an all-time high, the refugee crisis remains a topic of the utmost concern amongst the humanitarian community. Helping refugees and displaced people also continues to be a core part of Malteser International’s mission. In the following report, Secretary General Ingo Radtke explains our approach to tackling the challenges posed by this huge task.

Although the number of refugees arriving in Europe declined in 2016 there are still more refugees and displaced people around the world than ever before. Indeed, on a global level, the number of refugees and displaced people on Europe’s doorstep is only a small part of the story. Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, accounts for nearly a third of the 40.3 million internally displaced persons around the world; but in the public imagination the disasters unfolding across this continent, as well as vast swathes of Asia and South America, have been largely overshadowed by the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

Working to help refugees and displaced people has been a part of Malteser International’s mission from the very beginning, but the global displacement crisis means that this task is an increasingly significant part of what we do, not just in the Middle East but also in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

As the scale of these challenges has grown, so has their complexity. Modern conflicts span longer periods of time and are increasingly politically fraught. It is necessary to support the affected people on their way to long-term rehabilitation and economic independence. By doing this, we can make a lasting contribution to the future stability and development of crisis regions. The example of our aid to refugees and displaced people in Iraq and Uganda on the following pages sheds more light on this approach.

The first objective of humanitarian aid is saving lives. Our relief operations provide displaced people

with essentials such as food, water, shelter, and medication to enable them to survive their desperate situation. Providing medical care for people forced to flee in the face of ongoing violence or arriving from areas where social and medical services have collapsed is a top priority. However, the mission does not stop there. These needs still need to be met once refugees and displaced people are settled in a place of safety. To do this, either new infrastructure needs to be built or that of their host regions or communities needs to be strengthened.

When it is not possible for displaced people to return home in the short to medium term this raises additional problems. Amongst other considerations, the economic future of the displaced people needs to be secured, and their children require education. Intensive work is often required to help them  through the trauma that they have suffered.

Tackling the root causes

Refugee camp in Syria, near to the Turkish border.

Our task of providing aid for refugees and displaced persons will continue throughout the coming years, and we will continue to adapt our approach to the needs of a complex and rapidly changing crisis. However, the role of humanitarian aid can only ever go so far. The global displacement crisis is fundamentally a political problem, and this means that a long-term political solution to its root causes like poverty and insecurity is required. Nevertheless, our effort to maintain and reinforce social infrastructure and cohesion in conflict zones amongst refugees and host populations has an important role to play in helping to break the vicious circle of marginalization and violence on the ground, as well as providing lifesaving assistance to these most vulnerable people.

- Taken from the Malteser International Annual Report, August 2017

Ingo Radtke, Malteser International Secretary General. Photo: Frank Lütke

"Our efforts play an important role in breaking the vicious circle of marginalization and violence.


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