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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 August 2018

Sharjah UN refugee conference to focus on children and young people

Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Eminent Advocate for the UN High Commission on Refugees, said the Investing in the Future conference in October aimed to save lives and give refugee children food, shelter, health care and education.
Syrian refugee children play soccer as others watch at the Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq near the Syrian border in Jordan. The Middle East has the second-highest number of refugees in the world. Raad Adayleh / AP Photo
Syrian refugee children play soccer as others watch at the Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq near the Syrian border in Jordan. The Middle East has the second-highest number of refugees in the world. Raad Adayleh / AP Photo

DUBAI // A ground-breaking UN refugee conference in Sharjah will focus on the plight of more than 2.6 million young refugees in the Middle East and North Africa.

Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Eminent Advocate for the UN High Commission on Refugees, said the Investing in the Future conference in October aimed to save lives and give refugee children food, ​​shelter, health care and education.

“According to a report by the UN High Commissioner, the Middle East is the second-largest source of refugees around the world,” said Sheikha Jawaher, who is also wife of the Ruler of Sharjah.

“This conference is the first of its kind in the region that focuses on protecting the rights of refugee children and adolescents.

“We hope this conference can be the platform that brings together all parties working to help refugees, and especially children.”

The gathering, on October 15 and 16, is being hosted by the Big Heart Campaign, a charity that Sheikha Jawaher founded last year to help Syrian refugees, and the UNHCR.

“Dialogue between all stakeholders is necessary so we all agree on how to save the future of children of this region caught in war and conflict,” she said.

Sharjah is hosting the discussions to help the needy around the world and uphold the values of humanitarian work laid down by the founding President, Sheikh Zayed, Sheikha Jawaher said.

“The emirate of Sharjah has a deep-rooted history and it participates in the work of the UAE Red Crescent, whose presence has been felt across the globe.

“I believe my responsibility as UNHCR Eminent Advocate is to help protect the most vulnerable segment of society – namely children displaced due to conflict.”

Sheikha Jawaher, who was appointed the first Eminent Advocate for the refugee agency last year, said the conference would help to drive home some key issues.

“There are many messages that we want to share with the world, such as giving refugee children their rights to food, shelter, medical care, psychological treatment and education,” she said.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said: “Children constitute more than half of the refugees in the Middle East and North Africa.

“Hundreds of girls and boys are uprooted from their homes across the region every day. The impact of displacement on children is serious and often long-lasting, as interrupted childhoods threaten to become lost futures.”

Mr Guterres said he had been touched by the suffering of child refugees in the region.

“Some have told me how they have lost their parents or friends, some have told me how they were injured or difficult things they have witnessed,” he said.

“Some of the children I saw were so traumatised they have not talked in a long time, but I looked at their drawings and they almost broke my heart.

“I hope this conference will help us find ways to build on it by better addressing the needs of young refugees.”

Mr Guterres said the two-day event would call for collective action to protect refugee children.

“The challenges faced by displaced and refugee children across the Mena region are immense,” he said.

“I hope that this conference will contribute ideas for how we can better work together to strengthen the protection environment for refugee children and adolescents, and to ensure better futures for them.”

Mr Guterres said his agency would follow up on the outcomes of the discussions.

“The conference is an opportunity for countries and organisations to reaffirm their commitment to the protection of refugee children,” he said.

Sheikha Jawaher said her charity would also ensure the proposals put forth are followed.

“After the conference, we will conduct a follow-up review to ensure that every recommendation is successfully implemented and our targets are achieved on time,” she said.

pkannan@thenational.ae

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