GENEVA: Millions of refugees worldwide risk living on the street due to a lack of funds for shelters, the United Nations warned Wednesday, urging the private sector to help amid surging displacement.
Launching a global campaign called “Nobody Left Outside”, the UN refugee agency said it still needed half a billion dollars (441 million euros) to provide adequate shelter.
“Without a major increase in funding and global support, millions of people fleeing war and persecution face homelessness or inadequate housing in countries such as Lebanon, Mexico and Tanzania,” UNHCR said in a statement.
“Without a safe place to eat, sleep, study, store belongings and have privacy, the consequences to their health and welfare can be profound,” it warned.
Conflicts, including the five-year war in Syria, have fueled a global crisis with some 60 million people displaced from their homes worldwide.
Nearly 20 million of them have been forced to flee across international borders as refugees.
The UNHCR campaign aims to raise funds from the private sector to build or improve shelters for around two million refugees by 2018.
The agency each year purchases 70,000 tents and more than two million tarpaulins, and outside of camps helps refugees find housing and pay rent.
These operations are expected to cost $728 million this year alone, but UNHCR said so far only $158 million was available for use.
“Shelter is the foundation stone for refugees to survive and recover, and should be considered a non-negotiable human right,” UN refugee Chief Filippo Grandi said in the statement.
“As we tackle worldwide displacement on a level not seen since World War II, no refugee should be left outside,” he insisted.
And at a time when anti-refugee sentiments have flared in many overburdened host communities, Grandi said ensuring that refugees are properly housed is a good way to ease tensions.
“Proper shelter for everyone is central to social cohesion,” he said, stressing that “good homes make good neighbors.”