Deepesh Das Shrestha, Senior External Relations Associate, UNHCR Nepal, explains the situation in Nepal and the types of programmes the IWitnesses will visit in the refugee camps in Nepal.
An IKEA Foundation IWitness team will travel to Bhutanese refugee camps in eastern Nepal next week to meet refugee families and see the impact of the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign. With support from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the visiting team will spend three days in the camps meeting people from the local communities and refugee men, women and children from Bhutan.
Bhutanese refugees have been living in Nepal camps for more than 25 years. In the early 1990s, large numbers of refugees from Bhutan arrived in Nepal with the population reaching 108,000 by 2007. Since 1992, UNHCR, in close co-operation with the Government of Nepal and partner agencies, has been providing protection and all types of assistance including health and nutrition, education, sanitation and water, shelter and psycho-social support.
With the ultimate goal of finding lasting solutions for one of the most protracted refugee situations in Asia, UNHCR, the international community and the Government of Nepal jointly embarked on a large-scale resettlement programme in 2007. By 2016, more than 90% of the refugees were resettled in eight different countries.
Today, approximately 12,000 refugees live in the two camps of Beldangi and Sanischare in eastern Nepal. The success of the resettlement programme has created the space needed to pursue other long-term solutions—focusing on local solutions and supporting the dialogue on voluntary repatriation between the governments of Nepal and Bhutan.
For the remaining 12,000 refugees, UNHCR and partner agencies, with support from the Government of Nepal, are working together to help the refugees become more self-sufficient. They are also supporting local communities through education, access to sustainable energy, health, livelihoods, and social protection initiatives.
Through the support of the IKEA Foundation, primary school students from the refugee and host communities have benefited from a better quality education, computer-based learning and access to information and communication technology. Sustainable lighting through solar streetlights and solar lanterns has also helped create a safe environment for refugees and local students to live, study, and pursue brighter futures.
The IWitness Team will see for themselves how the support of the IKEA Foundation has contributed to helping refugees face the day-to-day challenges in the camps. It has created substantial and lasting change by funding holistic, long-term programmes in the refugee communities that address fundamental needs: health, education and promoting sustainable energy practices.