How tracking your steps can help the global plight of refugees

Be part of a campaign which will see the UAE join countries around the world to help refugees

epa07332815 Karen refugees walk on a bamboo bridge while crossing a river back to Thailand after the 70th anniversary of Karen National Revolution Day at the rebel jungle stronghold in Karen State, Myanmar, 31 January 2019. The four splinter Karen armed guerrilla groups of the Karen National Union (KNU), the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council (KNLA-PC) and Border Guard Force (BGF) gathered and cooperated for the military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the Karen National Resistance Day for the first time after KNU held its annually ceremony for 69 years. The Karen National Union, or KNU, is the oldest ethnic armed insurgent in Myanmar who have been fighting for an independent state known as Kaw Thoo Lei and declared war on the Burmese government on 31 January 1949, the Karen armed conflict in Kayin State also known as the Karen State in Myanmar, is one of the world's longest civil wars. The DKBA split from KNU in 1994 and fought against the KNU for a decade. The four armed rebel groups signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement with the Myanmar government in 2015.  EPA/RUNGROJ YONGRIT
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It can be hard to motivate yourself to exercise, especially on top of a hectic schedule, but for most of us, walking or running is a choice. But for the millions of refugees fleeing danger in their home countries, it’s a necessity.

That's why this year, UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – is inviting UAE residents to join a global movement showing solidarity with families torn apart by war and violence, by taking part in the '2 Billion Kilometres to Safety' campaign.

Whether it’s through walking, running or cycling, the campaign aims to see participants from around the world cover the total distance travelled by refugees each year to reach safety.

Participants can use their fitness apps or the campaign website to log the kilometres and contribute to a global total.

“‘2 Billion Kilometres to Safety’ will encourage people to support refugees through something they may already be doing – walking, cycling, running – or may even be the encouragement some people need to begin their own exercise programme,” says Houssam Chahine, UNHCR’s Head of Private Sector Partnerships in MENA. “Our campaign encourages individual acts of solidarity by retracing the journey of a typical refugee family to acknowledge their strength and resilience. It is important that we remind ourselves of the real and dangerous journeys refugees are forced to take to be safe and protect their families.

In 2019, people in 27 countries across Africa, Asia, Central and North America, Europe and the Middle East will take part in the campaign, including individuals, celebrity supporters, UNHCR personnel and even refugees themselves. UNHCR hopes to raise awareness and mobilise 1.5 million people in support of refugees and their basic needs of food, water, shelter, healthcare, and protection.

In the UAE businesses such as Dubizzle, MBC Al Amal, Careem, Al Tayer Group, Anghami, and Bukhash Brothers, among others, have pledged to take part in the campaign.

“Reaching the two billion kilometre target will not only show us, and more importantly refugees, the support and solidarity of the world with their plight, but also bring us closer, with every step, in understanding their realities and needs, through their stories” adds Chahine.

Mustafa Agha, head of MBC Sport, represents the UAE chapter of the campaign. He says: “It’s a privilege to join hands with UNHCR on the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety campaign to show people how they can personally contribute to helping improve the lives of the most vulnerable How this Abu Dhabi-based gala aims to educate refugee children in Jordanpeople in our society.”

The refugee crisis is one of the most pressing situations in our world today, with 68.5 million people displaced from their homes – over half of them women and children, according to the Global Trends report published by UNHCR in June 2018.

“The survival journey undertaken by each refugee has severely affected many physically, mentally and emotionally, including members of my own direct family, who were forced to flee from their homes in search of safety,” Agha adds. “Today, we have the opportunity to take a step with them in solidarity and in the simplest way, through joining the campaign, committing to reach the target, and continuing to spread the stories of courage and resilience of these refugees. Let’s make every step count.”

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