World Refugee Day 2023
“It was scary, very scary. Every day we heard the sounds of airplanes, tanks and shooting in the streets. A rocket blew up near our garden. One house was on fire and the walls fell. There was ash all over the city. It was time to leave.” - Polina, 12, from Ukraine
What is a refugee?
The UN definition of a refugee is "persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalised violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection”.
How many refugees and displaced people are there?
According to the UNHCR, there are 103 million displaced people who have fled their homes, leaving everything behind. Millions of children are now facing harsh conditions, and are vulnerable to violence, neglect and exploitation.
Sign our petition
World Vision is asking you to take a stand for displaced children and sign your name today. Together, we’ll ask the UK Government to listen to children who have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine, East Africa, Syria, Afghanistan, and across the world.
We want the UK Government to set up a Youth Advisory Council in the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office, to ensure the voices, needs, and hopes of the world’s children are taken seriously.
Where do refugees come from?
Of the 103 million forcibly displaced people, 72% come from just five countries: Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan and South Sudan.
Find out below how World Vision is helping refugees in these – and other – nations.
Since the war in Ukraine began, World Vision UK has been supporting Ukrainians inside the country and in neighbouring Moldova and Romania. We have reached over 650,000 refugees and displaced people – including 251,000 children – with food, water, shelter, cash, hygiene kits, education, medical supplies, Safe Zones and more.
READ MORE: Ukraine conflict: one year anniversary
Building resilience in Moldova
“Outdoor games are my favourite,” says Vladimir, who unwinds in one of World Vision’s child Safe Zones after school.
Vladimir and his mum, Natalia, fled Ukraine for neighbouring Moldova the morning after bombs began falling over their small town. Six months later, Vladimir was enrolled in school. “We never imagined he would start his first year of school in Moldova,” shares Natalia. While school has been positive, Vladimir has had some health issues that have caused concern for his mum.
A safe space to play
As soon as Vladimir finishes school, he heads to the child Safe Zone, run by World Vision partners. It’s a safe space for him to play, create and express himself. When Vladimir first began attending the Safe Zone, his paintings and conversations were almost entirely of tanks and battleships. According to Natalia, his artwork was filled with dark hues. But now, “After some months, Vladimir had begun sketching flowers and the sun in bold and bright colours. Notably, his interests have shifted away from war-related topics,” Natalia says.
This positive change has also been visible in his friendships and the way he actively engages in games and activities.
“I remember our house in Syria was very beautiful before the war started; during the winter it was very warm, [but] in the tents we feel very cold during winter. When I don’t go to school, I work collecting iron from 8am until 5pm... My father is sick [so] he can’t work. We all have to work to be able to buy enough food for all of us...” - Wael, 12, from Syria
In the 12 years since the conflict in Syria began, World Vision has helped more than 7.5 million children in Türkiye, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, and is also working within Syria.
READ MORE: Searching for peace in Syria
More than 7 million Venezuelans have left their country following economic and political turmoil. World Vision is supporting families in neighbouring countries, focussing on child protection, education, food security and livelihoods. We are also providing aid to families in Venezuela through partner organisations.
Over 6 million Afghans are displaced internally. World Vision has been delivering urgent health and nutrition projects to those in a displacement camp in Herat. In other places, our work supports newly and long-term displaced people, as well as residents of their host communities.
Conflict and a severe hunger crisis have caused 2.3 million South Sudanese people to flee to neighbouring countries. World Vision supports refugees in Uganda with emergency food, livelihood training, healthcare, access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and with educational opportunities.
The forgotten refugees
The Rohingya people have been described by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as "one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world". Having faced decades of discrimination and persecution, it was in August 2017 that violence and instability forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.
Today, over 943,000 Rohingya people live in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. They live in cramped conditions and are dependent on organisations like World Vision to survive.
Working with the World Food Programme, we have reached almost 600,000 Rohingya people with life-saving humanitarian assistance, including food programmes to more than 255,000 individuals, educational support to 6,000 children and vocational training to 8,400 young people.
Brothers Ares, eight, and Hares, five, live in Cox’s Bazar with their mother Juhara and younger sister Jasmin. They both have physical disabilities. Ares can’t speak, hold anything or walk without support, while Hares has a club foot and can’t walk properly.
Juhara explains: “They were afraid to use the toilet as there were no handrails to hold. So, when they needed to go, I would help them defecate in the yard and later I would clean it.”
Life changed for the family when handrails were built from the door of their house to the toilet.
“The handrails are really benefiting my children,” shares Juhara. “They can go to the toilet easily by themselves. Sometimes they play and laugh in the yard by holding the handrail. I smile, seeing their joy.”
How can you help refugee children?
Between disaster and recovery, between crisis and possibility, there is hope, there is courage. And there is you. Refugee children need support with water, food, shelter, healthcare, education and protection. Your support today will help them and their families to survive, recover, and rebuild.
What is it like to be a refugee?
The simplest answer is impossibly hard but unique to every person. Every refugee’s journey is different, which is why we make an effort to share as many stories as possible.
Read more refugee stories below or sign up to receive updates about World Vision’s work.