Eliza sits with her children at the UNHCR transit centre in Renk, South Sudan
© UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
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Three silent emergencies you need to know about

Shining a spotlight on humanitarian crises that the world is no longer watching.

What is a silent emergency?

While some humanitarian crises remain in the headlines, others are pushed aside to make way for the next disaster. The people trapped in these situations have been enduring incredible hardship for months or even years, away from the public eye. They rely on agencies like UNHCR to survive. Right now, silent emergencies are unfolding in Sudan, Yemen and Bangladesh.


Seven million people have been forced to flee their homes since heavy fighting broke out in April last year. While the conflict first centred on the capital, Khartoum, violence has now spread to other areas such as Darfur and Al Jazirah. To date, over 12,000 people have been killed. 

Communities are facing critical food, water and fuel shortages. At the same time, healthcare facilities are under attack and medical supplies are running out.

UNHCR staff have heard harrowing stories from survivors who have lost loved ones, been attacked in their own homes or even had to flee their hospital beds.

Agoth is among those who escaped the conflict. She is originally from South Sudan and, together with her family, worked hard to rebuild her life in Khartoum. She never thought she’d be forced to return home because of another war.

“We had to hide in our rooms from the bombs falling, with no food or water,” Agoth says. “When we had the chance, we decided to run.”

She spent three days travelling – first on foot, and then by truck – to reach UNHCR’s transit centre in Renk, just across the border in South Sudan. The centre filled up rapidly, forcing refugees to build their own makeshift shelters in the bush outside of town.

Panam and Agoth outside the Renk transit centre in South Sudan
© UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
Agoth (centre), her aunt Panam (left) and family members sit in their shelter at the UNHCR transit centre in Renk, South Sudan.

UNHCR’s dedicated teams are meeting refugees like Agoth at the border and providing relief items such as sleeping mats, hygiene kits and cooking utensils. UNHCR is also transporting refugees to safer areas and distributing cash assistance, so they can buy essentials such as food and medicine.


Unfortunately, Sudan isn’t the only silent emergency.

After almost a decade of civil war, the situation in Yemen remains dire.

When his home in Harad in the north-west of the country was no longer safe, Abdullah, 72, and his family of 10 had to flee to a neighbouring district.

“We left our home with only the clothes on our backs,” says Abdullah. “We settled into a tattered tent without mattresses or blankets. Our sole focus was survival.”

Abdullah and his family are among 4.5 million people who are internally displaced in Yemen – many of them lacking even the most basic supplies.

With support from generous donors, UNHCR was able to provide Abdullah’s family with vital relief items, including mattresses, sleeping mats, solar lamps, kitchen sets and jerry-cans.

Abdullah receives relief items
Abdullah, 72, receives essential household items from UNHCR.

UNHCR teams on the ground are doing everything they can. But there are so many more people like Abdullah who need immediate help.

Camps for displaced families are overcrowded, the health system is crumbling, and children are missing out on education. Hunger is also rife. More than six million people are facing extreme food shortages and acute malnutrition – many of them children under five.

In Yemen, children’s lives are at risk every day – from conflict, from landmines, and from hunger and disease. They are also at risk of being recruited into the conflict itself.


After fleeing violence in Myanmar, almost one million Rohingya refugees are living in overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar in neighbouring Bangladesh.

The situation is dire. In the cramped camps, communities are at high risk of diseases such as cholera and scabies. Children are unable to get a formal education in Bangladesh, while their parents don’t have work rights.

Food rations were cut twice in the last year due to lack of funding. This means refugees have just $12 per month to spend on food – or 40 cents per day.

"I had to reduce the portion of my children's meals, but for how long?" says Morinja, a single mother of three. "There is not enough food available for my family and I really do not know how we will survive.

"Right now, our fate is not in our hands. We are unable to go back home, we have no freedom of movement here and we are hungry every day."

UNHCR and its partners are providing emergency assistance and psychological support to refugees like Morjina. But after spending years in exile, they need your continued support.

Don't look away

No refugee should have to suffer in silence. Your generous donation can save lives and give hope to displaced people in the world’s forgotten crises. With your support, UNHCR can provide:

  • Emergency survival kits with plastic sheeting, blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, solar lamps and jerry cans
  • Cash assistance to help refugee families buy essentials such as food, medicine and clothing
  • Latrines and handwashing stations in camps for refugees and displaced people.

Refugees in silent emergencies are counting on you. Please give generously to let vulnerable communities know they haven’t been forgotten.

Donate now