UNHCR provides help and medical support to refugees in Egypt
Anti-government demonstrators in Cairo. UNHCR is finding ways to help refugees during the political uncertainty. (c)Reuters
Amid the continuing political turmoil in Egypt, UNHCR has been working through key partners to provide financial support and medical help to refugees in Cairo while UNHCR staff have been manning telephone hotlines from their homes.

On Thursday, UNHCR partner Caritas distributed financial assistance to 150 particularly vulnerable refugees in the Egyptian capital. The refugees collected their money from a branch of Refugee Egypt on the island of Zamalek located away from the main centers of anti-government protest in Cairo, and thus easier to access. About 1,000 people in Cairo rely on this bi-monthly aid from UNHCR and there will be further distributions over the coming days.

On behalf of UNHCR, Caritas has also been providing medical care and handing out medicine and prescriptions to refugees and asylum-seekers at the Refuge Egypt Zamalek outlet.

Meanwhile, although many UN offices in Cairo are closed for security reasons, UNHCR staff members continue to work from home. UNHCR has increased a hotline for refugees, which has been in regular use. "The numbers have been circulated via social media and through NGO and community networks," spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva on Friday.

"We have met partner NGOs to coordinate the resumption of our protection and assistance programs as of this week. We are also in regular contact with 16 refugee leaders and their networks to find ways to support refugees who are facing problems," he added.

UNHCR increased the number of telephone hotlines at the end of January amid growing concern about the welfare of refugees in Cairo and elsewhere. There are some 40,000 refugees registered with UNHCR in Egypt. The majority come from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan.

Edwards said that among the calls received on the hotline was one from a handicapped Somali refugee who fled to Cairo's airport. "Working with community leaders, we arranged for her to be cared for by a Somali family," he said.

"We have heard many accounts from refugees of the kindness of their Egyptian neighbors. Several families are living with their Egyptian neighbors after their homes were looted," Edwards added.

UNHCR is also communicating with refugees via NGO partners, refugee representatives, community leaders and psycho-social workers. This communication includes information on where they can receive medical support and what to do in an emergency.