52-year-old Alimi Abali is a refugee in the Forkoloum camp, where he escaped with his wives and children after an Islamic terrorist attack hit his village. Here, the middle-age man is seen as a village chief, or “Boulama”, in Chadian Arabic, as, among other things, he is responsible for resolving problems and tensions that arise within the community. Contrary to other families that arrived in the camp, Alimi and his relatives were able to build a proper house using solid circular huts built with reeds from the lake and wooden branches collected in the bush. The family even has a chicken coop and a horse that they use “like a bicycle, for daily travel”, Alimi jokes. But what is maybe their most valuable “asset” is the grocery stall owned by Alimi’s wife, Yaka Moussa. She opened it less than two years ago. “We received some money from UNHCR and with that we bought bulk commodities to resell”, she says, indicating the basic goods they sell, including peanuts, oil, drinks and washing powder.  

This is only one of many refugees’ stories inside Chad, a complex country with a difficult past, which today still faces several profound issues. Immediately after proclaiming independence from France in 1960, the nation was devastated by what became a long-standing conflict between the Arabs of the North, Muslims and with a feudal past, and the black Christian population of the South. This led to two rough decades of conflict between the two factions, each guided by different rebel fronts, which were however united in the will of subverting the current single-party government and freeing the country from the still heavy French influence. In the end, in November 1981, the Armed Forces of the North (FAN) of Hissène Habré, which had retreated into Sudan in December 1980, reoccupied all the important towns in eastern Chad. Peacekeeping forces of the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) withdrew in 1982, and Habré was able to form a new government in October of the same year.

Alongside all such issues, during those years Chad also had to face the wave of Islamic terrorism violence that afflicted the entire North and Central Africa. With one of the strongest armies in Central Africa, Chad was nevertheless able to move to the forefront of the antiterrorism fight, even deploying its soldiers in other neighbouring countries, such as Mali, in 2013. Meanwhile, among the several Islamic militant groups present in the area, one of them, which was also one of the most powerful, Boko Haram, began to move beyond its base in Nigeria, launching attacks in Chad itself and other nearby countries. Chad, however, took a leading role in efforts to combat the group, which, in turn, led to an increase in Boko Haram terrorist attacks inside the nation.

In the meantime, the run-up to the 2016 presidential election saw an unprecedented amount of protests against Deby’s regime and its repressions, including demonstrations and a general strike that brought business in many areas to a standstill. Nonetheless, Déby, who faced 13 other candidates, was favoured to win the April 10 election and effectively did it, with officials declaring that he received almost 62 percent of the vote. However, even before the results were released, some opposition leaders voiced allegations of voting fraud, and there was much criticism of the communications blackout during and after the election. A new constitution was promulgated in May 2018: among the changes were those that expanded the presidential powers. The post of prime minister was abolished, and the president’s term was changed from five years, with no term limits, to six years, with a limit of two terms. The changes to the president’s term, however, would not be applied retroactively, meaning that Déby could potentially remain in office until 2033. Parliamentary elections that had been due in 2015 but continually postponed were once again further delayed, with polls eventually scheduled for late 2021. In the April 2021 presidential election, held while rebels attacked from the north, Déby was declared the winner, but on April 20, the military announced that the president had been killed in battle with rebels on the border, and rather than following the constitution, which dictated that the president of the National Assembly should be named interim head of government, they instead dissolved the government and the Assembly. They established a National Council of Transition to govern the country for 18 months, with new elections to be held at the end of the transition period. Déby’s son, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, was meanwhile named interim president.







Author: Pasquale Candela; Editor: Valentina Cova

Brice Kouewon, 34, from Côte d’Ivoire spent a third of his life as a refugee in neighbouring Liberia after leaving his home country for over a decade. His story is just one among many for a large number of Ivorian people.

In fact, for little more than a decade the West African State, the world’s first cocoa-producer, experienced a dire and bloody civil war which led to the displacement of about 34,000 Ivorians. Immediately after the death of long-running President Houphouët-Boigny in 1993, the state was devastated by a long-lasting series of civil protests and elections’ boycotts by the opposition. Long-standing ethnic and religious tensions were a reality further exemplified by the then-government’s attempt to rewrite the constitution to prevent opposers from running for president. With tensions escalating, the army mutinied on December 23, 1999, and Brig. General Robert Gueï, a former member of Houphouët-Boigny’s government, took control of the country. Despite pledging that legislative and presidential elections would be held by October 2000 and that he would not be a candidate, the General then changed his mind and instead ran for president. After a controversial election in which Gueï tried to manipulate the outcome of the vote, Laurent Gbagbo of the FPI (Ivorian Popular Front) managed to win the election. But Gbagbo’s government was not without discord, and culminated in a failed coup on September 19, 2002. Gueï, who the government claimed was behind the coup, was killed during the fighting. The failed coup fueled unrest and ignited civil war, leaving the country divided into the rebel-held north and the government-controlled south. Peacekeeping troops from France, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and later the United Nations (UN) created a buffer zone between rebels, known as the New Forces, and the Ivorian government troops. Three peace agreements were reached during the years, respectively in 2003, 2005 and 2007.The first two did not find the success hoped for. In April 2005, after the last cease-fire agreement between the Ivorian government and the rebels was reached, the terms of the treaty were not immediately implemented, the fighting resumed, and the elections scheduled for October 2005 were called off, leading to a further extension of Gbagbo’s mandate as president. In 2007, talks in Burkina Faso would result in a new power-sharing agreement signed by both sides, and a new transitional government was inaugurated. This time, Gbagbo remained president, while Guillaume Soro, a rebel leader, was named to the post of Prime Minister. The nascent transitional administration was faced with several difficult tasks, including dismantling the buffer zone, disarming rebel and pro-government militias, restructuring the defence and security forces, and preparing for presidential and legislative elections to be held within 10 months.

Once more, however, several problems caused yet another delay in the call for elections, but finally, on October 31, 2010, the polls  opened. Once again, the presidency was contested by Gbagbo, former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, and former President Henry Konan Bédié. Gbagbo and Ouattara garnered the most votes, but, as neither candidate received a majority, a runoff election was scheduled. However, the second round of voting, held on November 28, 2010, did not go as well as the first. Prior to the release of results, in fact, Gbagbo announced his intent to challenge the outcome of the election, alleging fraudulent practices and instances of voter intimidation in the northern part of the country where Ouattara was popular. Finally, though international observers did not find that vote intimidation cited by Gbagbo was so widespread and deemed the election to be largely democratic, the Constitutional Council, asked by Gbagbo, cited evidence of numerous irregularities, discounted a portion of the results, and declared the former president the winner. Nevertheless, while Gbagbo was sworn in for another term, Ouattara  , who had international backing as well as the support of New Forces rebel troops that controlled the northern part of the country, also had himself sworn in as president, thus forming a parallel government. International pressure on Gbagbo to step down increased, and both ECOWAS and the African Union suspended the country’s membership in their respective organizations to protest his refusal to hand over power to Ouattara. As the stalemate continued to drag on, the Ivorian people and the economy suffered: tens of thousands were displaced by the crisis, and several allegations of human rights abuses were reported. Beginning in late February 2011, there was an escalation in violence. Fighting between pro-Gbagbo and rebel forces intensified, as did attacks by pro-Gbagbo forces on Ouattara supporters who were gathered at mass demonstrations. The existing humanitarian crisis was exacerbated when water and electricity supplies were cut to areas known to be rebel strongholds or supportive of Ouattara, the country’s northern region as well as areas in the country’s central and western parts. Rebel forces began to advance, taking towns in the government-controlled southern part of the State. By the end of March, the rebels controlled more than two-thirds of the country, including the designated capital Yamoussoukro. Battle for the de-facto capital of Abidjan, where Gbagbo was ensconced, took place over the course of the next couple of weeks. Finally, after UN and French forces began bombing specific targets belonging to Gbagbo’s forces, alongside his residence, on April 4 the president’s military leaders called for a cease-fire. Gbagbo was then arrested by rebels and Ouattara was finally able to begin serving as the effective head of state.

Ouattara sought to fulfill his electoral promises, and focused on rebuilding the crumbling nation’s economy, alongside trying to reunify its population and overcome the still deep-entrenched ethnic and political divides that were in place. He succeeded in these actions, particularly in the first, thus leading the country to experience one of the biggest economic growths in the entire West Africa region.

For this reasons, the UN, and UNHCR, based on an analysis of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire and consultations with the government and host country governments, finally determined that circumstances that had led Ivorians to flee their country no longer exist, thus advising an end to refugee status for most of them. However, those who still consider themselves at risk if they return, though a strict minority, can always request an exemption from the refugee status cessation procedure.







Author: Pasquale Candela; Editor: Valentina Cova

Today Saleema Rehman is  a renowned gynecologist in Pakistan, her homeland, but her story did not begin in an easy way. On the contrary, her birth was difficult and she was expected to die, due to her mother, a refugee, struggling to get medical assistance. 

She struggled against a long series of difficulties and obstacles, mainly due to her refugee birth status, but this never bothered her too much because she was, as she recounts, one of the fewest women sitting at school desks, despite the criticism from her village and the entire community. She stayed loyal to her principles and, after applying for two straight years to university, she finally obtained the only seat reserved annually for a refugee to study medicine in Pakistan’s Punjab province. She later specialized in gynaecology after being selected again for a residency at Rawalpind’s Holy Family Hospital, also in Punjab. 

However, Saleema’s dream was not to just work in the hospital, though the Holy Family complex would have later been declared a COVID-19 first response center. In fact, she had always desired to open her own private clinic to assist many refugee families who couldn’t afford healthcare assistance. Finally, this dream also came true in January this year, when Seleema got the license to open a clinic in Attock. 

“The opening of this clinic was a very happy event for us”, says Anila, one of Saleema’s Afghan refugee patients who couldn’t afford the cost of expensive clinics in her own country. 

At her clinic, Saleema is also promoting hygienic practices and dispelling false myths about COVID-19 vaccines. 

In the end, all her work prompted the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to award her with the prestigious regional Nansen Refugee Award for Asia, an annual prize that honours those  first in line in the fight to help refugees, displaced or stateless people. 





Author: Pasquale Candela; Editor: Valentina Cova

40-year-old Suabo had to flee northern Mozambique following non-state armed groups attacks that took place close to her home in Palma. These attacks had her frantically join other fleeing villagers, and in the ensuing panic and chaos, jump onto a ferry boat carrying several other people along with her daughter and niece. She recalls those minutes of pure terror claiming “From the boat, I could see armed men shooting at people. We managed to escape, but many other boats stayed captive”. The situation in northern Mozambique couldn’t be more critical.

OCHA reports the armed conflict in northern Mozambique continued to escalate in the first half of 2021, driving widespread displacement and a rapidly growing humanitarian crisis. The number of people internally displaced by the violence increased from 172,000 in April 2020 to over 732,000 people by the end of April 2021. Additionally, the attack on Palma on 24 March 2021 and following clashes across the district have forced nearly 68,000 people to flee their homes and move to safer areas.

At least 30 percent of people displaced in northern Mozambique have now had to flee multiple times, and the new wave of displacement from Palma since March has uprooted thousands of people who sought refuge in the district after being displaced from other parts of Cabo Delgado. 

The majority of the displaced families are staying with relatives and friends but for people like Suabo who have no relatives, there are transit centers set up by the government, where people receive food assistance, sleeping mats and blankets. However this doesn’t solve Suabo’s main worry: part of her family stayed behind in the rush to safety and their current state is unknown. 







Author: Benedetta Spizzichino

As fighting between government forces and rebel groups continued in the Central African Republic (CAR), Zara and her four children walked for a day to arrive near the border of Chad.

Once there, Zara, 30, crossed the border into Chad and arrived at Doholo refugee camp, in the town of Choda: “I had some savings which I took with me, and I was already selling crepes back in my country,” Zara said. “I needed to do something to cover the needs of my children, to feed them, put clothes on them. I need to give them a better future, even if we are in exile.[…] Now I prepare doughnuts to sell, so I have  a way to look after my children”.

Fighting erupted in Central African Republic (CAR) in 2013, after rebels ousted President Francois Bozize. Since then, the country has experienced devastating violence that has forced close to 1.5 million to flee and sight refuge in neighbouring countries such as Chad, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

According to the United Nations High Commissioer for Refugees (UNHCR), 221,694 Central African Refugees are currently living in the DRC. However, only 26% of these refugees live in the four refugee camps managed by UNHCR in North and South Ubangi Province; in fact the majority live on riverbanks in hard-toreach border areas, often within host communities with limited resources. Their living conditions are dire. They often have little or no access to clean water, sanitation facilities, or food. came after last December’s presidential and parliamentary elections and displaced 250,000, many within their own country. Others, like Zara, have sought refuge in neighbouring countries such as and elsewhere.  





Imagine receiving a call from your spouse and being told to take your three daughters and run away from your village due to an attack, with no clear destination in mind, walking for two days to reach the next town. This represents the ordinary life of most Mozambican internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, whose lives are disrupted from one day to another due to recurring attacks and violence by non-state armed groups since October 2017.

This episode of “Voices” focuses on the story of Maria, 31-year-old Mozambican, mother-of-three, who was forced to flee her village in Mocimboa the Praia, in northern Mozambique, in March 2020. Her journey included swimming with her three children, witnessing others not making it, walking for two days to reach the town of Quitunga, 15 kilometres south of Palma. Maria was luckier than other IDPs: she stayed with relatives and had a roof over her head and food. Only three days after her arrival, new shootings forced her and her children to leave by boat to reach Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province, where nearly 700,000 people are displaced.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s support has been essential to provide protection services and relief items (sleeping mats, blankets, screening and identifying the most vulnerable). However, UNHCR works for communities, but also with communities. In this regard, Maria has volunteered to help the UN refugee agency to explain the importance of COVID-19 and cholera prevention measures to new arrivals. She does so by preparing water buckets for people to wash their hands and having focus groups and training sessions with IDPs, which makes a concrete impact on hygiene practices, “little by little”, as she claims. In parallel, her role also includes identifying survivors of gender-based violence and referring them to UNHCR for assistance.

To date, Maria still does not have any news of her husband, as all communications from Palma were completely cut off since March 2020. Her biggest hope is for her daughters to finally resume school one day and have a chance to choose their future.





Author: Barbara Caltabiano

Elodie Kavugho, 41, is a single mother of eight who has fled with her children after her village in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo  was attacked by one of the most dangerous armed groups in Beni Territory. She recalls a two days long walk to reach safer spots, Mangina Town in her and her family’s case although having nowhere to stay upon the arrival: “We walked for two days [...] Our feet were sore for a week; we were massaging them every day.” Further, she’s awaited nine months to access a safe accomodation provided by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. 

Nearly two million people have been uprooted by insecurity and violence in North Kivu province alone over the past two years. Despite DRC’s President Felix Tshisekedi launching a state of emergency on 6 May in North Kivu and its neighbouring Ituri province, armed groups continue to devastate civilian lives. 

UNHCR reports that since 22 June, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) are alleged to have brutally killed at least 14 people and injured many others in and around the city of Beni. Several properties were looted, and others burned to the ground.  This was the first attack in two years by the ADF on the city, and the group’s resurgence is terrorizing the lives of inhabitants, as well as Elodie’s too. 

As brutally unfair as it is, Elodie’s case is not an exception. In fact, the number of families fled from Congo keeps arising. Those who manage to have a secure roof over their heads often happen to host a large number of displaced people in their houses. It is the case of Kahambu Mwavuli, 57, who barely has any space left in her house in Oicha in Beni Territory, with more than 25 people, including her own family of seven and the displaced people she has taken in, currently crammed into her small home.




UNHCR - Attacks by armed group displace 20,000 civilians in eastern DRC

Congolese PM assesses the situation in North Kivu and Ituri | Africanews



Author: Benedetta Spizzichino

Maryam is another victim among an estimated 270,000 Afghans who have been newly displaced inside the country of Afghanistan since the start of this year by an upsurge in violence. She’s now found shelter in Nawabad Farabi-ha camp on the outskirts of Mazar-e Sharif city, along with her four children. 

While sitting inside her tent, she recalls those endless moments of fear and panic that her flee has meant. Having been forced to move four times in the span of a few years due to internal clashes, her children are unable to attend school and are dressed in worn clothes covered in grime and dust.

The United Nations report that at the beginning of 2021, half the population of Afghanistan – including more than 4 million women and nearly 10 million children – were already needing humanitarian assistance. One third of the population was facing crisis and emergency levels of acute food insecurity and more than half of all children under 5 years of age were malnourished. Those needs have risen sharply because of conflict, drought and COVID-19. Since the end of May, the number of people internally displaced because of conflict and in need of immediate humanitarian aid more than doubled, reaching 550,000.

Recently, Taliban militants retook Afghanistan's capital, almost two decades after they were driven from Kabul by US troops.  Although Afghan security forces were equipped, they put up little resistance as Taliban militants seized much of the country following the withdrawal of US troops beginning in early July. People like Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had enough luck to flee the country, abandoning the presidential palace to Taliban fighters, but those people are very few in comparison to those who couldn’t escape and were left behind, just like Maryam. 




UNHCR - UNHCR warns that humanitarian needs in Afghanistan cannot be forgotten



Author: Benedetta Spizzichino

Brukti has been forced to flee Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, alongside thousands of others. She worked as a nurse for four years before the violence erupted and forced her to flee her village close to Adwa. “When I heard that people were being killed, I fled together with my son. We saw dead bodies in some of the villages that we travelled through”. As soon as they reached Mekelle, she immediately started volunteering at the site where they found shelter, by providing vital healthcare to other displaced.

Now Brukti is volunteering in a small room stone cottage in Mekelle where over 1,800 displaced people are living, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR has also established ‘protection desks’ in 38 sites in Shire and Mekelle, where displaced people can access vital services and information get psychosocial counselling by UNHCR staff.
Brukti and 15 other trained nurses are volunteering at the small makeshift health centre with the lead doctor from the Regional Health Bureau in Mekelle: “I’m happy to help my community in this critical time, but my hope is for peace to be restored so that I can hopefully see the rest of my family again,” Brutki says.

Across the Tigray region, the conflict has severely impacted the lives of refugees, internally displaced people (IDP) and civilians. In fact, the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region is worsening dramatically due to the constrained delivery of humanitarian assistance. Both refugees and the internally displaced are experiencing a lack of food, water and proper shelter. Despite the challenges and the ongoing hostilities, humanitarian partners continue to scale up the response but according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at least 5.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.


A microphone, a headset and a powerful story to be told. This is what it takes to turn fear into opportunities, and this is also the aim of the radio show “Good morning, Yaoundé”, run by refugees who seek to narrate their life journeys. Emmanuel Ambei, 30 years old, Chadian refugee student now living in the Cameroonian capital of Yaoundé, is among the students who make it possible. Thanks to a small grant from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Emmanuel and other refugee students committed themselves to run a radio program spreading awareness on refugees’ plights. “Our objectives are to be able to make refugees speak, to make them known to others and to the world”, says Ambei.

The programme includes field reports and studio interviews. On the one hand, Emmanuel and his fellows record refugees’ lives in camps and urban areas, witnessing the scarcity of work, but also the welcoming feeling of the refugee community toward the group of trained journalists. On the other, the shy voices of refugees would be recorded. Emmanuel claims that they are all connected: not only each story is equally touching, but it also teaches him something new about the lives of refugees in Cameroon, especially of those living in non-urban areas, that are known to have fewer opportunities in terms of education, jobs and healthcare.  

Aired on the main public radio station of Cameroon in June, the project is expected to be expanding soon to other French-speaking African countries. In addition to the primary focus of the project, young refugees are challenging themselves and are creating opportunities: they are being trained in the field of journalism and communication by the International Council of French-speaking Radio and Television (CIRTEF) professionals. This is the case of Mabel, who sees the needs of her refugees brothers and sisters and now nurtures the idea of working in the humanitarian field.







Author: Barbara Caltabiano

Linda, 22, and Xolie, 19, being a refugee, know it very well. They are some of the lucky refugee students to get scholarship opportunities to continue their higher education. In 2008 Xolie fled social turmoil in Zimbabwe with her mother and sister while Linda left Burundi for South Africa with her mother in 1998 to again escape to Botswana 10 years later. “It’s hard being a kid in a refugee camp,” affirms Xolile. However, she is lucky as some of her friends have been resettled to a third country, or are back in Zimbabwe. “Life feels more secure than it did before coming to university… we can make plans for the future,” says Linda.

Many refugees in Botswana excel in their studies. Unfortunately, their options after secondary school are limited as the Botswana government only offers full or partial scholarships to their own students and not to the refugees. So the refugees have to go back to their camps where the job opportunities are limited.

Similarly, like many other nations, Botswana is also suffering from COVID 19 pandemic and as happens in difficult times, the females are paying a higher price for it. They are in danger of being forced to get married early or go into child labour to alleviate the poor economic situation of their families.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Skillshare are working together to provide scholarship opportunities for high-performing refugee students. These international organizations are partnering with higher education institutions and private sectors in Botswana to offer such opportunities. This progress is a recent achievement and is expected to multiply in the years to come.






Author: Giulia Francescon; Editor Shrabya Ghimire

 The rusty, white walls of Solomon Alema’s room are covered in art. Five giant posters and one human-sized painting tower over the humble space. He’s sitting on the floor, dragging his paintbrush down to accentuate his new painting with color. There’s a cluster of clean sketchbooks and vibrant-colored art materials that surround him, illustrating a stark contrast to his dark-lit temporary shelter. For Solomon, his priority isn’t the state of his refugee life, but the safe haven he finds in the comfort of his art.

Solomon is a 29-year-old Eritrean refugee in Tripoli, Libya. He’s one of the 49,000 registered asylum seekers in Libya, but unlike the others, Tripoli isn’t his end destination. He envisioned a future as a hardworking student and a professional artist far from his home country, thrusting his mother to sell her jewellery and his relatives to support him through financial means. He paid smugglers  $5,500 he had garnered to take him to Europe by boat, but halfway through the journey, the Libyan Coast Guard halted the vessel he was in, putting a stop to his ambitions.

After his release from detention, Solomon developed tuberculosis due to the unsanitary conditions and re-entered another detention center to access medical care that he couldn’t have availed on his own. Now, he resides in a community brimming with support and optimism despite the harsh conditions they’re in.

Access to basic essentials is still a figment of imagination to many. Solomon said that his housemates and friends were worried about the lack of food and financial security as they shared meals and other items among the group. “I honestly would prefer to spend everything I have on materials to paint. But life is very difficult and it is not easy to focus on painting when there are other really important things that are priorities for us, necessities for us to survive,” he said in the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

UNHCR provides asylum seekers and refugees financial, household, medical, and psychosocial support to make their needs meet. Together with the UN World Food Programme, the agency will provide food assistance to around 10,000 refugees and asylum seekers until the end of the year especially to those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and cannot afford to provide for themselves.

While waiting for the said support, Solomon continues to immerse himself in his creative sphere. It’s obvious that there’s a pervasive theme that stands out in every artwork he paints. Each vividly-drawn creation is embellished with biblical motifs and references. “We don’t have any place to pray here in this country. So we use these pictures,” said Solomon. “When people pray, it gives them hope. Using this painting to pray helps them with their faith and makes them feel they are protected from danger.” 

Art has paved a way for Solomon, who has no formal art training, to find the strength to wake up every day. Instead of keeping it to himself, he exposes it to his community to shower hope and light, inviting everyone to favor faith as a weapon against the hostile setting they live in.







Author: Matthew Burgos