Shelter is vital in emergencies

A refugee camp is intended as a temporary accommodation for people who have been forced to flee their home because of violence and persecution. They are constructed while crises unfold for people fleeing for their lives.

These hastily built shelters provide immediate protection and safety for the world’s most vulnerable people. Camps allow UNHCR to deliver lifesaving aid like food, water and medical attention during an emergency.


refugees live in camps. Millions more live in urban areas and informal dwellings.

The evolution of the refugee camp

Refugee camps are practical during emergencies for delivering lifesaving aid, but many refugees displaced are often living through protracted situations. The UN Refugee Agency initially delivers lifesaving emergency aid, but also transitions into long term care for refugees. This brings about a new set of challenges.

New challenges include: delivering electricity to camps in the desert, ensuring that children have access to education and helping prepare refugees for life after the camp with job and skills training.

Responding to these challenges and the needs of refugees redefines what a refugee camp is and how best to respond to refugee crises. Camps are no longer simply rows of tents, they are communities filled with people preparing for brighter futures.


number of people forced to flee their home every day because of violence and persecution. 

Educated in a camp, determined to be the future president of Somalia

In 2013, eight-year-old Mahamoud and his family fled violence and drought in Somalia and ended up finding refuge in Ethiopia’s Buramino refugee camp. Like many refugee children, he never had the chance to go to school or learn to read. “Before I came, I was illiterate. Now I have education and I like to learn more,” Mahamoud says with a proud smile.

Mahamoud has dreams to use his love of education for even greater purpose: “When I finish my education, I want to become president of my country. I want to go back to the land where I came from, Somalia. I will open health facilities, hospitals and schools that are free of charge to everybody.”  


percentage of refugee children of primary school age who are in school today.

Refugee entrepreneur delivers a slice of home in Za’atari camp

Before fleeing Syria in 2012, Abu Mahmood was a plumber and small business owner. When he arrived to Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp he saw that there were many businesses operating on Za’atari’s bustling Champs-Élysées, but one thing was missing. Pizza.

“Nobody else was delivering pizza, so I saw an opportunity and bought a bike. Now we can deliver to anywhere in the camp,” Abu says. He typically makes between 30 and 50 deliveries a day.

While he never imagined that he would be forced to leave his country, he says he is content with the new career he has made for himself. “It’s a good business, and I’m even thinking about opening a pizza place back in Syria when we go back.”


number of refugees living in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. This is approximately the population of Scranton, Pennsylvania.