Syrian refugee Zain in ‘Capernaum’ [Illustrative purposes only] Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Over 692,000km has been covered by people in 27 countries around the world to date contributing to the ‘2 Billion Kilometres to Safety’ campaign by the UNHCR — the UN Refugee Agency.

Talking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview, Houssam Chahine, UNHCR’s Head of Private Sector Partnerships in Mena said the global campaign was launched in several countries including the UAE as it celebrates the Year of Tolerance.

The year-long campaign is inviting the UAE community to show solidarity with families torn apart by war and violence. It’s calling on people to join a global push that will see participants from all over the world cover the total distance (2 billion km) travelled by refugees each year to reach safety.

Houssam Chahine said te campaign encourages the public to walk, run, swim or cycle to help achieve the cumulative figure of 2 billion km that displaced people walk every year. Image Credit: UNHCR

“There are 68.5 million people who are displaced around the world. Research shows that on average it takes a refugee 17 years to come back to their own country as a result of several challenges,” said Chahine.

Whether internally in their own countries or outside their countries as refugees, displaced people walk 2 billion km to find safety every year. The campaign encourages the public to walk, run, swim or cycle to help achieve the cumulative figure, and to log in their kilometres on several fitness apps or the campaign website — www.stepwithrefugees.org.

68.5m

people who are displaced worldwide

“So far, the campaign has seen the most contributions from people in Europe and in Asia. We are hoping to increase the number of participants in the Middle East and the region in the upcoming months through different events and walkathons,” said Chahine. Individuals, education institutions, and organisations can also take part in the campaign by arranging events to contribute to the global goal. “The stories of many displaced people are shared on our website- people taking part in the campaign are matching what perhaps the distance a woman has walked from Syria to Jordan,” he said.

Chahine explained that over 50 per cent of the world’s displaced people and refugees come from the Middle East and North Africa due to several conflicts taking part in the region in the past 10 years.

2billion km

that displaced people walk every year to find safety

He confirmed that the Syria crisis remains to be one of the biggest refugee crisis with March 8 marking the eighth anniversary of the start of the conflict.

“There has been more than 5 million people displaced inside Syria and around the same number outside the country between Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey.”

50%-plus

of displaced people are from Mena region

Turkey currently has the largest number of Syrian refuges with over 3 million, while Jordan is hosting over 600,000 refuges. Out of Lebanon’s population of 6 million, almost one million are refugees.

“The message here is that all the crisis are ongoing and they are human stories. Most of the refugees in each crisis are women and children. We need to remind ourselves that we need to be a part of this through advocacy or donations so that they are provided with the minimum needs to survive,” said Chahine.