There are more than 65 million displaced people worldwide—nearly double the population of Canada. The United Nations says this number is unprecedented and the need for humanitarian assistance is only growing.
The crisis isn’t isolated to one region. People are being displaced all over the world, testing the resources and resilience of populations from Europe to Africa to the Middle East. Whether internally displaced or registered refugees, uprooted people around the world find support from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
MCC collaborates with local churches and non-profit organizations to provide emergency food assistance for displaced people, support groups for isolated populations, trauma healing programs and more.
Social services for refugees in South Africa
South Africa is the 10th-largest recipient of asylum seekers and refugees worldwide but has few services to meet the needs of these people.
MCC partner Refugee Social Services is one such organization, and its staff work to meet more than material needs.
Support groups provide a space to build connections, overcome isolation and spend time with other refugees in similar circumstances. Having space to share stories and laughter together is especially important for older refugees who are unable to work and may have fewer opportunities to connect with others outside their homes.
In addition to support groups, Refugee Social Services provides emergency food and rent support for newcomers to South Africa, job training and educational opportunities in Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
Meeting basic needs in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Can you imagine what it would be like if all the people in Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador combined, and more, were displaced and forced to migrate to an area a 10th the size of Disney World?
This is the case for more than a half-million Rohingya people from Myanmar living in Cox’s Bazar. MCC is supporting Canadian Foodgrains Bank members who are responding to the needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, where people have fled extreme violence in Myanmar in search of safety and freedom.
In Cox's Bazar, MCC is contributing to food distributions which will benefit an estimated 140,000 refugees.
MCC has ongoing work in Myanmar as well, including supporting the Myanmar Institute of Theology’s Peace Studies Centre. It also support women’s groups that address conflict in their communities and promote equal rights and opportunities for women.
Emergency assistance in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Imagine if the entire population of Saskatchewan and more was displaced due to violence and political unrest. This nightmare is a reality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
About 1.4 million people from the Kasai region in south-central Congo have fled ethnic and political violence that erupted in 2016 between a local militia group and national security forces. Five thousand Mennonites are among those forced from their homes.
MCC is working with several church groups to provide emergency food and non-food items for hundreds of families in Kasai and Kwilu provinces. The assistance also supports the host families.
According to Fidele Kyanza, who helped coordinate one of the distributions on behalf of MCC, this assistance helps build peace. “Many times, a very poor family is receiving another very poor family into their home,” he says. “When you give support and aid to those families, you give harmony and peace,” he says.
Food for displaced Syrians
The number of displaced Syrians outnumbers the entire population of western Canada.
In addition to providing cash vouchers, educational support and trauma healing, MCC partners are helping to meet basic needs.
The Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue (FDCF), an MCC partner, distributes monthly packages of food to 6,000 families in the Qalamoun area, Homs and rural villages around Hama. The packages include items such as rice, pasta, chickpeas, lentils, oil and canned meat.
MCC is the only international organization providing relief in some locations in the Qalamoun region.
Resettling refugees in Canada
MCC also helps resettle refugees in Canada.
Hutterite members of Green Acres Colony, near Wawanesa, Man., along with Enes and Fata Muheljic, a refugee couple who fled from the former Yugoslavia years ago, worked with MCC Canada to sponsor a refugee family from Syria.
“Many years ago our ancestors came as refugees,” says Elaine Hofer. “If Canada hadn’t welcomed Hutterite refugees, many of us wouldn’t be here today.”
Mushiya Christine, left, Kayaya Lulula Clementine and Veronique Lumba Misenga take part in a support group for refugee seniors in Durban, South Africa. (MCC photo by Matthew Sawatzky)
Jean Pierre Mpiana and Yabu Miadi carry a sack of corn flour, oil and beans they received during a distribution by the Evangelical Mennonite Church in Congo, an MCC partner. They were among 180 households of displaced people who received a three-month supply of food. (MCC photo by Mulanda Jimmy Juma)
Reverend Riad Jarjour, president of the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue, holds some of the contents of monthly food packages for Syrian families. (MCC photo by Emily Loewen)