UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner 2022 24
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UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees visits Australia

Deputy High Commissioner Kelly T. Clements thanks Australian donors and addresses challenges for refugees

Last month, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly T. Clements made her first trip to Australia. She thanked donors for their significant contributions to refugees over the past two decades, and discussed some of the challenges displaced people are facing around the globe.

“I’d like to thank Australia for UNHCR for 22 years of support,” she said. “The funds you raise here help to save lives all over the world – from Ukraine to Afghanistan, from Bangladesh to the Horn of Africa.”

At a women’s event hosted by the Leading Women Fund (LWF), Deputy High Commissioner Clements applauded Australian women for supporting Syrian refugee women in Jordan.

“Your program here, known as the Leading Women Fund, is one I very much admire,” she said. “In three years, the Fund has raised half a million dollars and helped more than 200 families in female-headed households.”

Deputy High Commissioner Clements also shared her experience using Connecting Worlds, an app that Leading Women Fund members use to get to know the Syrian refugee women they support.

“I was lucky enough to trial the app, texting with Majada, a widowed mother of four. We talked about life in Syria and Jordan. We both have kids and I know how important it is for her four girls to stay in school. She shared some of her personal struggles and also what gives her hope.”

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Deputy High Commissioner Kelly T. Clements meets with Helena in Makariv, Ukraine. © UNHCR/Saorlaith Ni Bhroin

At a donor briefing, Deputy High Commissioner Clements also discussed her recent trip to Ukraine, emphasising the resilience and compassion of the Ukrainian people. She shared the story of Helena, a 72-year-old farmer who also cares for her husband, who has mobility issues. Helena and her husband hid at home while missiles fell on their village outside Kyiv.

"Helena could not stop talking about the missile that landed on her greenhouse, which affected her ability to grow hothouse tomatoes,” recalled Deputy High Commissioner Clements. “She was trying to grow enough fruit and vegetables not only to feed herself and her husband, but also to support the community around her.”

Deputy High Commissioner Clements was joined by Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR Director for Asia and the Pacific, to discuss some of the key challenges refugees face, including climate change, the rising cost of living and the approaching winter.

Deputy High Commissioner Clements reminded donors of the impact their generosity during a tumultuous year, despite these challenges.

“Refugees are incredibly grateful to UNHCR for the support we provide – whether it’s a place to sleep, cash assistance to cover the basics, support with legal questions or counselling.

“We must work to ensure refugees are not forgotten, that their rights are protected and that they can benefit from the advances of the modern world.”

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