Response to humanitarian crises
By the mandates it gives to its agencies, the United Nations provides specific responses to humanitarian crises.
The prime task of the World Food Programme (WFP) is to combat hunger and poverty in the world by meeting urgent needs and supporting economic and social development. It supplies aid to refugees, victims of natural disasters and the most vulnerable population groups.
When a humanitarian crisis (armed conflict or natural disaster) causes major movements of people (refugees or internally displaced persons), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) intervenes to afford them protection and assistance.
The UNHCR Office was created by the United Nations General Assembly in 1950 (Resolution 428), and its mission, under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (and asylum-seekers), is the international protection of refugees, asylum-seekers and the stateless. The agency seeks to ensure the right of all to seek asylum and find refuge in another State.
The UNHCR’s initial mandate does not cover the issue of displaced persons. No United Nations agency has a specific mandate to protect them. However, because of its experience and presence in the field, the UNHCR has provided protection and assistance to 14.4 million displaced persons in 2009. In all, in 2009, the number of people covered by its work was 25 million. The UNHCR has offices in 118 countries and employs 6,650 staff.
The situation of Palestinian refugees is dealt with by a specific United Nations agency: UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East). It was created in 1949 by Resolution 302 of the UN General Assembly.
At present, UNRWA is the main provider of basic services to the 4.7 million Palestinian refugees living in the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. This assistance comprises five elements: education (the Agency’s largest budget); health; relief and social services; microenterprise and microfinance; and camp infrastructure and facilities.
Update : July 2010