What you do as an individual can make a world of difference to human suffering, says an Albury-born woman now working for a UN refugee agency in Yemen.
Shabia Mantoo, 33, has been working to raise awareness of the crisis in Yemen, which has left 19 million people forcibly displaced and affected by conflict.
As part of World Refugee Day on June 20, she is pleading with her fellow Australians not to ignore the large scale of human suffering across the world.
Ms Mantoo, a spokesperson for UNHCR, said the millions of families forced to flee their homes were “innocent bystanders” in a war not of their making.
“These people are no different from you and I; who just want to return to their day-to-day lives,” she said.
“They are hungry, homeless and have no health care.
“We have an obligation not to ignore suffering on this level – it goes to the very heart of who we are as human beings.”
Ms Mantoo has been in Yemen since June 2016 and every day bears witness to the “atrocities” suffered by refugees.
The 2016 Global Trends Report, to be released on June 20, reveals 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced across the world.
That’s 24 people a minute.
Ms Mantoo, a qualified lawyer, moved to the humanitarian sector from the corporate world after working in London and Dubai.
She has also served with UNHCR on the Syrian refugee crisis and internal displacement situation in Iraq.
Established in 1951, UNHCR provides relief for refugees and displaced people, delivering emergency shelter, food, water and medical care as well as setting up infrastructure and schools in refugee camps and communities.
But agencies are falling short of being able to fully respond to the crisis, according to Ms Mantoo who lives and works in an active war with the sound of gunfire in her ears.
“Let’s show the world Australia’s spirit of generosity – let’s be there when people need it,” she pleaded.
“Yemen is so far away but in your capacity to help, know your contribution will impact a life for the better.
“Whether it’s an emergency shelter kit or food for a displaced family, what you do as an individual makes a world of difference.”
To help go to unrefugees.org.au