Residents urged to walk, run '2b km' in refugees' shoes


Samuda Khatun slept under trees, walked for 18 days
Samuda Khatun slept under trees, walked for 18 days

Dubai - The campaign is a global movement, which is also active in the UAE.

By Sarwat Nasir

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Published: Sat 29 Jun 2019, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 30 Jun 2019, 12:07 AM

UAE residents are being encouraged to take part in an initiative that aims to highlight the plight of refugees, specifically their struggle of having to walk countless kilometres to reach safety.
The 'Step With Refugees' campaign, by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), has been letting more people know how  refugees have to walk, cross jungles and climb hills for two billion kilometres each year just to find clean water and a safe place to stay.
The campaign is a global movement, which is also active in the UAE. It encourages people to link their fitness apps to the initiative and help reach the goal of covering two billion kilometres. At Press time, a total of 4,994,696 steps had been taken by people across 27 different countries.
"We launched (the campaign) in the UAE because it is the Year of Tolerance, and we thought this is a beautiful occasion to launch it in the country. Now, we have a few partners who are engaging their staff, students and partners in the campaign.
"The last step we took was with the New York University in Abu Dhabi. They actually did a march at the campus in solidarity with refugees to remind the students and staff about the story of one of the refugees, who had to walk more than 254 miles," the UNHCR's head of private sector partnerships in the Mena region, Houssam Chahine, told Khaleej Times.  "I think in the UAE and the larger area of the Middle East, there is more interest in this kind of volunteerism and raising awareness about refugees.
"We do see more engagement. The UAE has been very generous when it comes to highlighting this cause."
New campaign
The UNHCR also launched a new campaign that focuses on the refugees' need for clean water.
"We're now talking about 20 litres per person to support their daily need. There are three pillars for that - to provide clean water, protect families against water-borne diseases, and prevent women and children from facing dangers in order to fetch waters as they have to walk long distances," Chahine said.
Samuda Khatun slept under trees, walked for 18 days
This woman is Samuda Khatun, a Rohingya refugee. She had to flee her family home with her three grandchildren, after an attack on her village
They walked 95.4 kilometres in 18 days to reach the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh, which is providing protection for more than 600,000 Rohingyas who were forced to flee.
During their journey, the family slept under trees and plants that grew in the mountain forests. To quench their thirst, they found water in small ponds or puddles. Eventually, they also ran out of what little food they had brought.
Eva was 9 when she fled their home
Eva, a refugee from South Sudan, walked more than 400km in 12 days at a young age of nine to reach a safe location in Ethiopia.
Armed forces attacked her town of Malakal and her entire family - her father, mother and 14-year-old brother - was killed. She walked and ran to reach safety, witnessing extreme violence on the way.

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