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May 08, 2024

Refugee mothers show just how strong moms can be

Like all mothers, refugee mothers want nothing more than to protect, to provide for and to care for their children.  But they face the unique challenges of forced displacement:  complications of long journeys from home, uncertain housing situations, lack of access to healthcare and education for their children and other worries associated with being forced to flee.

Despite the challenges they face, refugee mothers persevere and ensure everyone around them is safe and taken care of. They are strong and resilient women who serve as inspiration for their children and all of us.

Meet five displaced mothers who have overcome the unimaginable and are starting to build better futures for their little ones.


Venezuelan mother Eliangelica in Panama

Twenty-one-year-old Eliangelica is displaced with her husband and two kids, ages four years old and four months old. The family left their home in Aragua, Venezuela because Eliangelica’s four-year-old child required hip displacement surgery and the treatment was not available where they lived. They traveled to Colombia first but were not able to secure medical treatment there. They then traveled to Ecuador, where Eliangelica was finally able to get her child the surgery they needed.

The family tried to stay in Ecuador but Eliangelica and her husband couldn’t find jobs. Crime and violence were also on the rise, and Eliangelica didn’t feel her children were safe. She made the difficult decision to take her family on a dangerous four-day journey through the Darien jungle to Panama. Her journey isn’t over, but she hopes to build a better life for her children.


Congolese mother Wamaria

Wamaria recently arrived at the Lushagala camp for internally displaced people in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo with her newborn twins. She walked for seven days with her babies in her arms to reach safety.

“I have nothing. My husband died on the way. In short, my only hope is these babies,” Wamaria explains.

Though she has just arrived, the only thing she can think about is one day being able to return home. She desperately wants peace so she can go back to her village of Masisi and raise her babies surrounded by the safety and support she once knew. “Without peace, I don't even know how my babies will live,” she says, expressing her deepest fears and her motivation for holding onto hope during the darkest time of her life.


Iraqi grandmother Ashwaq in Jordan

Ashwaq is the perfect example of what it means to be a powerful mother and caretaker. Over the course of her lifetime, the 67-year-old has raised nine orphans by herself and is now the loving grandmother and sole caretaker of Ali, Baneen and Rima, who she has been caring for since their mother died and father abandoned them a decade ago.

Ashwaq is originally from Iraq, where she worked for the Ministry of Transportation for 17 years, balancing her roles as a working mother and wife. Life in Iraq was not easy, and she was eventually forced to flee her home to find safety. She arrived in Jordan in 2003, where her life took a turn for the better. Now, Ashwaq feels a sense of purpose and gets back every bit of love she gives.


Nyarabaziga, mother in Kenya

Nyarabaziga, a young mother of three, fled to Kenya in 2015. All three of her children have since been born as refugees in Kenya.

In 2017, Nyarabaziga discovered UNHCR’s National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), a lifesaving program that has made it possible for her to have healthy pregnancies and births and for her children to access care as they grow up.

“Before I got my NHIF, going to the hospital was very expensive but now that I have it, my children never lack medicine when they need it,” Nyarabaziga says. “When my daughter got a fracture, I was able to get treatment for her without any worry, everything was covered.”

It takes a village to raise a child — or, in Nyarabaziga’s case, three children — and NHIF has been an essential part of Nyarabaziga village. Now, Nyarabaziga can ensure her children grow up happy and healthy.


Sudanese mother Rawda in Chad

Thirty-two-year-old Rawda is one of more than 1,000 Sudanese refugees that crossed into Chad through the Adre border crossing on April 19th this year. Over the course of the week, more than 6,000 Sudanese people made this same journey — illustrating the urgency and desperation in Sudan. The Chadian government, UNHCR and partners are on the ground making sure new arrivals are registered and able to access vital services and assistance.

Most of the new arrivals are women and children, like Rawda and her young baby. Though she doesn’t know what her baby’s future will look like, she knows that they are safer now in Chad. She will continue to do everything in her power to nourish her baby and ensure they stay together and stay safe.

How you can help…

While refugee mothers are incredibly strong and independent, no mother should have to care for her children completely alone. This Mother’s Day, ensure refugee mothers and children can access the vital support and assistance they need by becoming USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor.

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