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Rwandan Boy Outside of Camp Frequently Asked Questions
- About displaced people around the world

Questions about refugees and displaced people are often complex, and many people misunderstand their situations. ARC compiled a list of questions (and answers) people frequently have about refugees and the work ARC does around the world.

What is a refugee?
A refugee is someone who has been forced from their home country by war, civil conflict, political strife, natural disaster or gross human rights abuses. Most of the time, refugees must flee their home and villages without warning, taking with them only the clothes on their backs.

The majority of refugees (80%) are women and children. Men in wartime are frequently forced to fight, or are killed during the unrest.

A significant proportion of refugees have experienced severe trauma. Many have been tortured, separated from their families, and subjected to personal and/or sexual violence.

How many refugees are there?
Today, there are roughly 39 million people in need of international protection and assistance. Approximately 10 million are refugees and 29 million are internally displaced people.

Who are Internally Displaced People (IDP)?
Internally Displaced People or IDPs are forced to flee their homes just as refugees must. However, IDPs do not cross an international boundary and are displaced within their own country. IDPs face the same hardships as refugees, without the same protection under international law. And, because of their unique situation, it is often very difficult to provide assistance to IDPs.

Why is it so difficult to care for refugees and displaced people?
Usually, victims of war and oppression flee in large numbers, arriving in poor, underdeveloped states that don’t have the means to care for them. Most of these developing countries lack the sound infrastructure needed to facilitate a massive humanitarian response.

Making things worse, the conflict that forced them from their homes may destabilize the region in which they’ve sought refuge. They may flee to safety, only to be forced to flee again a few months later.

Where does ARC work?
ARC works with refugees in Thailand, Pakistan, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Conog, South Sudan, Somalia and Rwanda. ARC’s programs around the world impact the lives of around 2.5 million people each year.

What kind of work does ARC do?
ARC provides many of the services refugees and displaced people need to survive and live healthy lives, including: shelter, clean water and sanitation, health care, protection and recovery, skills training and business development training, microcredit, education and transition services.

Does ARC help resettle refugees in the United States or other countries?
ARC helps refugees return home or settle in their country of refuge. ARC is not involved in resettling refugees to the United States or third countries. Most refugees wish to return home, when possible. In fact, fewer than 10 percent of refugees resettle in a third country.

When ARC was founded in 1979, the organization helped refugees resettle and start a new life in the United States. ARC has since ended its resettlement efforts, and the organization fully dedicates its attention to addressing the global refugee crisis.

How does ARC decide where to go to help?
The American Refugee Committee is a medium-sized humanitarian relief and assistance organization. Unfortunately, ARC does not possess the resources to respond each time tragedy strikes. In order to make a meaningful and lasting difference to the people we serve, ARC chooses to limit the number of programs we operate around the world.

The decision of where to go to help is different each time. Sometimes the United Nations or the US Government will request that ARC begin helping in a certain country or region. Sometimes, as was the case with the 2004 Tsunami and earthquakes and flooding in Pakistan, ARC decided to help because it had years of experience working with refugees in those regions.

ARC supporters, volunteers, board and staff are compelled to help for numerous reasons, But, in each case, people have suffered tragedy and desperately need the help that ARC can provide.  

How can I help refugees?
You’re actually helping refugees right now. By learning more about refugees, how many there are, and the suffering they face, you can talk to others and teach them about the plight of refugees.

Learn more about how you can help refugees and support the work of ARC.


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Daniel Wordsworth - American Refugee Committee President - talks about the situation in Somalia and how all of us can make a difference and help save lives.
Returning to Somalia
Nimco Ahmed shares her recent trip back Mogadishu her first time back to Somalia in 24 years
South Sudan
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Deb Ingersoll runs ARC’s Cash for Work Program in Haiti. She’s interviewed at ARC Headquarters.
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Simona Palenga, ARC Field Coordinator in Haiti, is interviewed at ARC HQ.
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Senior Director of Program Quality Monte Achenbach, is interviewed from the field in Haiti.
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ARC volunteer Dr. John Bordwell talks about the health situation of Congolese refugees in Rwanda.
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Somalia: Photos
photographs from Somalia
South Sudan: Photos
images from our efforts in southern Sudan
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