Forced displacement is a development challenge, not only a humanitarian concern. As of September 2023, 114 million people were displaced, and this number continues to grow as conflict and insecurity rise across the globe. Most refugees are hosted by developing countries, and the issues around support and integration of refugee communities are often deeply political.
In this episode— the second in our special series on how to end poverty on a livable planet—we're asking the question: How can we better support the world’s growing number of refugees and their host communities? What economic benefits can refugee integration bring to societies?
Tune in to hear the real-life experience of Abdullahi Mire, winner of the 2023 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award, who grew up in one of the largest refugee camps in the world and is now a champion of refugee education; and Nancy Karambo Riungu, a Kenyan entrepreneur working with refugees. We also get insights from the UN Refugee Agency’s Raouf Mazou and The World Bank’s Xavier Devictor on how humanitarian agencies, development institutions and the private sector can better support refugees. Stay with us until the end of the episode to catch the reading of a poem by Kinshasa- born, British poet JJ Bola, who reflects on life as a refugee.
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- Xavier Devictor, the World Bank’s Co-Director of the 2023 World Development Report
- Raouf Mazou, Assistant High Commissioner for Operations at UNHCR
- Abdullahi Mire, winner of the 2023 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award
- Nancy Karambo Riungu, a Kenyan entrepreneur and expert tailor working directly with refugees.
[00:00] Srimathi Sridhar: Hello, and Happy 2024. Welcome back to The Development Podcast from the World Bank. I'm Srimathi Sridhar. In this episode, which is the second in our special series on how to end poverty on a livable planet, we're asking the question: "How can we better support the world's growing number of refugees and the communities that so generously host them?"
Srimathi Sridhar: As the year opens, we are grappling with multiple crises and humanitarian emergencies. The number of forcibly displaced persons has more than doubled over the last decade, and 75% of them are hosted by low or middle-income countries that are struggling to meet their own goals. Over the next 30 minutes, we'll hear the inspirational story from one individual who spent his entire childhood in one of the largest refugee camps in the world after his family fled Somalia and later led him to set up a charity putting books in the hands of refugee children. And today, he's a recipient of the 2023 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.
Abdullahi Mire: I believe the power of storytelling. Stories can change life. Information itself is [inaudible]. It can save people.
Srimathi Sridhar: We'll hear from the UN's Refugee Agency on the latest displacement trends and how humanitarian agencies, development organizations, and the private sector can support refugees and host countries.
Raouf Mazou: What we've seen in some contexts is that if we provide the right support, the presence of refugees can actually contribute to the economy of the country that is receiving them.
Srimathi Sridhar: From the World Bank, we'll hear on how we can change our response to the refugee crisis.
Xavier Devictor: I think we need to start by acknowledging that refugees are people; that they're people like just each and every of us. These people actually need to find jobs. They actually will need to have an education.
Srimathi Sridhar: And we'll also hear from one small business owner in Kenya who works with refugee communities.
Nancy Karambo Riungu: There is a very good relationship between the host community and the refugees, and I really enjoy working with all of them. I eventually managed to train so many.
[02:24] Srimathi Sridhar: All that and more coming up on this episode of The Development Podcast. When it comes to refugees, the numbers have never been so grim. As of September 2023, 114 million people were displaced due to conflict, violence, persecution, human rights abuses, and other crises. The number is growing as conflict and insecurity increases across the globe.
Srimathi Sridhar: Most refugees are hosted by developing countries, and the issues around support and integration of refugee communities are often deeply political. We'll get into some more context and how we can rethink support for refugees and host communities in a little bit. But statistics alone don't give us much insight into what it's like to leave a home and cross a border, unsure of where the journey ends, the reception waiting there, or when you might even return. And that's exactly what happened to Abdullahi Mire, the recipient of the 2023 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award, which was presented to him right at the end of last year in Geneva at the UNHCR Global Refugee Forum. Our producer, Sarah Treanor, caught up with him.
Sarah Treanor: The busy sounds of life in Dadaab, Kenya, one of the world's largest refugee camps, which plays host to over 350,000 displaced people; over half of whom are children. It's where Abdullahi spent almost his entire childhood. He explains.
Abdullahi Mire: I am a Somali who fled away from Somalia in the early nineties while I was still young. Our family crossed the boulder in the arms of my mother, and we crossed into the Kenyan refugee camp that arduous period because of the war that was taking place in early nineties in Somalia.
Sarah Treanor: Abdullahi doesn't remember life in Somalia before they fled to Dadaab.
Abdullahi Mire: I was only three, and whatsoever I knew, I knew, as I grew in Dadaab, was what was narrated to me by my mother.
Sarah Treanor: I asked him to paint a picture for me of life in Dadaab. He told me about some of the businesses and commercial activities in the camps.
Abdullahi Mire: In Dadaab, [inaudible] the structure, it is a camp that was initially meant for about 90,000 people. There are three camps. Now four. The numbers have increased. Resources being overstretched, and that tells you how overcrowded it is. Initially, the camp was to be like something temporary. Things are changing as the years change. There's businesses now. There's machines making ice cream. There's a transport system. The boda-boda, that means the motorbikes. And things are getting from temporary to semi-permanent due to the hard work and the resilience of the community, and collaboration with other agencies that are led by UNHCR.
Sarah Treanor: Abdullahi, your family took you across the border because of conflict, but there are many other factors at play here, aren't there? Such as climate change.
Abdullahi Mire: As you know, the people from Somali, mostly in my community, are pastoralists. When it doesn't rain, they lose livestock and it's hard for them to feed their children and families. They leave to look for safety and a better place. So, Dadaab is a home to people who seek asylum. This is a safe heaven for people who are fleeing the war, the climate change, and the crisis in the region.
Sarah Treanor: Abdullahi decided at a young age that he wanted to be a journalist. I asked him what inspired him as a child to pursue the profession.
Abdullahi Mire: Growing up in the school, I used to see journalists come into the camps trying to tell histories of... All histories. I was inspired by that. I ever wanted to tell the history of my own people. I believe the power of storytelling. Stories can change life. Information itself is [inaudible]. It can save people.
Sarah Treanor: He set up the Refugee Youth Education Hub after initially starting a book drive for children in the camp after he'd graduated from university and left to pursue his career. I asked him if there was one particular moment which convinced him that he needed to try and help.
Abdullahi Mire: I was inspired to start Dadaab Book Drive by just one call. In 2017, after leaving the camp, I was just doing an assignment in one of the schools doing documentary on education. We've been a crew of five people. I was the only Somali. A student, a girl in Hagadera Secondary School, one of the schools in the camps, come to me, approached me, asking for a book. And I'm inspired by her courage. I'm inspired by her need. She told me, "Just look, bro, I need a biology book because I want to be a doctor. Yes, we have a biology book, but we're sharing with 15 others, 10 others. That means I have to wait 10 days to read my book." When I went back to Nairobi, I bought her like 10, 15 books.
Sarah Treanor: And now you've managed to get a huge number of books in the hands of children. Tell me about that.
Abdullahi Mire: Yes. We provided a hundred-thousand school books and built three libraries. Our target is not only Dadaab or Africa. We need to go beyond. This year, I'm anticipating to get about 2 million bucks to refugee children in Africa and beyond.
Abdullahi Mire: I want to direct this award to every child from my country, Somalia.
Sarah Treanor: Abdullahi was presented with a prestigious UNHCR Nansen Award at the end of last year in Geneva. I asked him how it felt to be the 2023 Global Laureate and what makes him proud.
Abdullahi Mire: Yeah, I'm always proud when I see a child that gets a book because of our course, because of our work at the Refugee Education Hub, and I'm even more happier when I see a child coming back to me saying, "Look, [inaudible] found me this, now I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to be an engineer, but I'm still on that journey." That kind of feedback makes us proud.
[08:41] Srimathi Sridhar: Thank you, Sarah and Abdullahi, for your inspiring story. Abdullahi's drive for education, growing up in Dadaab, is courageous. And as Xavier Devictor, the World Bank's co-director of the 2023 World Development Report, says, "Education is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to rethinking responses to refugees, especially since over 43 million of displaced people are children."
Xavier Devictor: So, if you go to any refugee camp or refugee settlement, you're going to be struck by the number of children. Young children. Obviously, educating them is of primordial importance for themselves, for their countries of origin, because if they return, they will be actually the next generation of these countries of origin, and for the hosting countries, because the last thing you want is to have a large, uneducated, marginalized, young population. The question is: "How do you do this?"
Xavier Devictor: Now for a long time, the international community has looked at a variety of solutions. One of them has been to support countries in including refugees in their national education system. And the benefit of that is simple. Refugees are going to get degrees that are actually recognized on the labor market that they're first going to face. Refugees are going to receive the same education as the nationals, and so there won't be any kind of suspicion, jealousy, or misperception or misfeeling that creates social tensions. And then finally, when refugees and host community children are in the same classroom, connections start, which once again, helps to prevent social tensions. So that's critical.
Xavier Devictor: Now, for a very long time, most countries have said, "We're willing to do this, but there's a cost." And so, the question is: Who's paying for it? What we've done with some recent analytical works actually to quantify these costs, and actually it's not that large. So, if you take all refugees who live in low-income countries, the poorest countries, and if you imagine that you put all their children in national education systems, the total cost is at about $300 million a year, which is large, but which is very small for the international community. Now, the question here is: If these countries are willing to take the step, can we actually come to the fore and provide the resources that are needed to actually make it happen?
[11:07] Srimathi Sridhar: We'll be coming back to Xavier in a little bit, but first, I want to introduce Raouf Mazou. He's the Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees at UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. I spoke to him from his office in Geneva, and he told me about some of the drivers of forced displacement and also the outcomes of the second Global Refugee Forum, which was hosted last month.
Raouf Mazou: COVID happened. The situation in Afghanistan, which had resulted in massive movement. The situation in Ukraine, which has resulted also in a large population movement. The current situation in Gaza. So, we are in a kind of, I would say, much more fractured world than we were four years ago when we had the Global Refugee Forum. But takeaways from that, I would say first: a huge sense still of solidarity. A number of countries hosting the largest number of refugees were present, whether it is Uganda, whether it is Jordan, which was one of the co-conveners, and a number of other countries.
Raouf Mazou: And what we heard from these countries was very reassuring, because they're saying, "Yes, we're going to continue to abide by international obligation. Yes, we're going to continue to be welcoming to refugees despite the fact that we are now hitting record number, more than 114 million people displaced, whether refugees or internally displaced persons." But we heard this country saying, "Yes, we consider this our responsibility and will continue."
[12:41] Srimathi Sridhar: As we heard from Abdullahi earlier, climate change is clearly having an immediate impact on the movement of people. I asked Raouf about his take on the climate crisis and refugees.
Raouf Mazou: What is new and what we're seeing more now is the role of climate change and the fact that climate change is having an impact on societies. You find societies or communities which no longer have access to water, no longer have access to arable land, and that is creating conflict. So, in the past, the tendency was to focus on the immediate cause, which is the conflict which result in people moving. But now, more and more you can see that climate change is having a huge impact on communities in many, many different ways. It is resulting in conflict, as I said, in some parts of the world where cattle herders and farmers which were cohabiting suddenly find themselves in a situation where, because of the lack of resources, there are conflict, then resulting in forced population movement.
Raouf Mazou: We've seen that in Cameroon. We've seen that in Chad. But what we're also seeing, and one of the biggest increase in population movement that we're seeing in this is in the Americas, where you see mixed movement of people moving north towards the US. Canada. The US. Mexico. But what you see, and when you discuss with these populations that are on the move, often there is an element of violence which is also very strong in that part of the world, but often the point that they're saying is climate change. Climate change resulting in less water being available, adaptation measures that should be put in place not being put in place, and people seeing movement and migration as the only response to the crisis in which they find themselves.
[16:52] Srimathi Sridhar: What impact does this have on host countries, many of which are developing countries themselves?
Raouf Mazou: So, it's clear that having a sudden influx of population to your country is having a very strong impact on the economy and requires not just the humanitarian assistance that is being provided, but also to look at the displacement from a development [inaudible]. And as I was mentioning earlier, talking about partners who are present at the GRF, thankfully this is something that is now being understood. The fact that there are development consequences to forced displacement. We need to measure it better. It is not always measured as well as it should. And I know that these are things which both the IMF and the World Bank are now more and more doing.
Raouf Mazou: What we are trying to do is to avoid situations where refugees are provided with services that are provided in parallel. What we're trying to do is to make sure that the services, social services that are provided by the state to their population, are actually expanded to include refugees. But that requires measuring what it costs, and then that requires additional resources. And this is what is being mobilized, and we are seeing more and more programs that are responding to the specific consequences of the presence of refugees.
Raouf Mazou: What we've seen in some contexts is that if we provide the right support, the presence of refugees can actually contribute to the economy of the country that is receiving them. It's a bit counterintuitive. It's not always understood as such. There are other political dimensions, political issues, which need to be taken into consideration. But the reality is that from an economic point of view, depending on the kind of support, depending on how the impact is measured, and depending on the specific programs that are put in place, the presence of refugees can actually contribute.
[16:52] Srimathi Sridhar: It's an interesting point there that Raouf makes, and indeed for many refugees, their stay in their host country is not short. Many stay for a long time, even over a decade. Think of Abdullahi in Dadaab. He arrived at the age of three and he's leaving as an adult. His story is fairly typical. But let's now return to Xavier Devictor from the World Bank. What does he make of the impact of refugees from an economic perspective?
Xavier Devictor: Over the last 10 years, the number of refugees has almost doubled, but there is another trend which is that international assistance has plateaued. And so, we have two diverging trends which essentially raise a number of challenges for the poorest countries that are actually hosting 80% of refugees in the world. As to your question on the impact on the economy and social systems, the answer is: It depends. It depends on the number of refugees. It depends on who they are. It depends on where they are coming from. It depends on where they're settled, where they're going to. But it mainly depends on the hosting country's policies. I think that's a key message.
Xavier Devictor: Hosting countries, through their policies, can actually help reduce the cost of hosting refugees, can actually help reduce the impacts of hosting refugees. Let me just take one example. Some of our colleagues have calculated that in Chad, which has recently received very large numbers of Sudanese refugees, it will cost about $500 million a year to sustain these people. If you let these people work, it will cost only $200 million a year. And if you let these people work and move to places in the country where there are jobs, it'll cost only $120 million a year. That's still a very large amount of money, but much more realistic in the current context.
[18:25] Srimathi Sridhar: Xavier, why do you think it's important for development finance institutions like the World Bank to act on this crisis?
Xavier Devictor: So, if you go to Peshawar in Pakistan today, you're going to meet with people who left Afghanistan when the Soviet Army invaded in 1979, and you're going to meet with their children and you're going to meet with their grandchildren. So the reality is that many refugees live in protracted situations. Before the recent Ukraine crisis, the average refugee had spent 13 years in exile. And yet, the way we respond is still very much framed as an emergency response.
Xavier Devictor: I think what we have to do is to recognize that most of these refugee situations last, and therefore that it is prudent and effective to respond in a manner that can be sustained over time, both financially and socially. And that's where a development response becomes critical to compliment; not to replace, but to compliment what humanitarian actors are doing.
Srimathi Sridhar: And how would you say the World Bank supports refugees and host communities?
Xavier Devictor: So, the World Bank, as you know, has been engaged in refugee hosting countries in support of both refugees but also host communities, because host committees are also affected by the arrival of large numbers of people in their area. So, way we do this is for a series of activities, education, health, agriculture, community development, road building, etcetera.
Xavier Devictor: But I think there's one word that sums it up, and that's the word "inclusion," which is trying to support countries in including refugees in national health and education systems. Trying to support refugee-hosting countries in letting refugees join the labor force. Trying to help refugee-hosting countries include refugee-hosting areas in their national climate adaptation plans. Inclusion is key, because as we said, refugee situations tend to last, and therefore we need to put in place policies that can be sustained over time.
Srimathi Sridhar: Tell me about some of the partnerships the World Bank has in this area.
Xavier Devictor: So, we are working with a range of partners. We're working with the usual development partners to seek synergies in our programs, complementarities, and the like. But I think what's new in the ways the Bank operates is a partnership that we've established with UNHCR, which is the UN Refugee Agency, and that's a partnership that is based on the complementarity of mandates. So, UNHCR is the agency that is mandated to provide protection to refugees to look into the legal issues associated with hosting refugees, and it is also an organization that is providing first-response humanitarian support.
Xavier Devictor: We are obviously a development agency that looks at the medium to long-term aspects of the issue. I think what we found is that UNHCR is unlikely to succeed unless we succeed, and we are unlikely to succeed unless they succeed. So that's what's new in this partnership, which is that we are engaging with an agency which is not a development agency, but where our success is very much conditional on their success.
Srimathi Sridhar: So it's very much connected.
Xavier Devictor: So it's very much connected and it requires looking for ways to work together, looking for ways to complement one another, while actually still remaining faithful to our mandates and our comparative advantages.
[22:00] Srimathi Sridhar: Well, it's not just partnerships between international organizations playing an important role. As Raouf Mazou from UNHCR tells us, the private sector is increasingly a critical piece of the puzzle. I asked him to start by telling us about any success stories he's seen in terms of durable solutions for refugees.
Raouf Mazou: The first one I would say is Colombia. Colombia did receive a lot of resources from both the Inter-American Bank, the World Bank, other international financial institution to regularize the stay of Venezuelan nationals in the country. And what we've heard from colleagues from the Bank and other institutions is that regularizing the stay of Venezuelans in the country through providing them with documentation, which was funded through support provided by the Bank and others, has had a positive impact on the economy. And it has actually been measured. Not only did it have a positive impact on the economy of Colombia, but it also had a positive social impact, because you ended up having less people who found themselves in a situation of illegality in the country and therefore being exploited.
Raouf Mazou: And the next example that I can give is Moldova. Moldova is one country which is not part of the EU, but a country which has received a large number of Ukrainian refugees through the support that they've received as part of the GCFF, which is the facility that is meant for middle-income countries. They've been able to integrate refugees in services, whether it is healthcare, education, and the rest; and more importantly, to support the inclusion of refugees in the workforce. This is one country where, from the beginning, the government insisted on the fact that the Ukrainian refugees who are coming to the country needed to be fully included, fully integrated, and more importantly that they needed to work rather than be dependent on humanitarian assistance.
[23:59] Srimathi Sridhar: UNHCR and the International Finance Corporation, or IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, have partnered on a joint initiative to boost private sector engagement in refugee-hosting areas. The initiative is working with businesses like Santander Bank, which will provide $100 million in loans to forcibly displaced Ukrainians and small businesses owned by them. IFC is offering around $17 million as a second loss guarantee for consumer loans at Santander Bank. Raouf, can you explain more about the benefits that the private sector can bring to refugees and host communities?
Raouf Mazou: No, a lot. Again, often the private sector is seen more from a CSR point of view, more from a philanthropic point of view. What we've seen is a number of things first, and going to the refugees and displaced themselves, and I just made reference now to the situation in Moldova. So, you do have people who came from Ukraine and basically could establish small businesses in the various countries where they were in Europe. So they are economic actors. They are the private sector. But they need something else than humanitarian assistance. They need investment. They need legislation that allow them to establish themselves. They need help to know how you establish yourself as a taxi driver, as a barber, et cetera.
Raouf Mazou: So, first, seeing people who are displaced as people who may need some assistance, who may [inaudible] assistance at the beginning, but also ask people who just sometimes may need to be given an opportunity to be integrated in the economy. So, that's the first aspect of the private sector. And the team that we've put together with the IFC based in Istanbul is looking into that, at ways of providing support to this category of people through facilitated access to banking, facilitated access to insurance, training, or sometimes just explaining and advocating for them to be able to work, and that all over the world. We've seen in the context of the Ukraine crisis, for instance, number of governments from the beginning being very sensitive to that.
Raouf Mazou: Now, the other aspect of private sector, which is crucial, is the fact that we have settlements, refugee camps, refugee location. You have a large number of refugees which have been there for a long period of time. And what we see over time is the fact that you actually, from a refugee camp, end up having a place which is a market, where people exchange, where people buy, where people sell. And often, for companies which could come and sell some of the products or could come and establish plants to produce something, they need to be encouraged to come. And I'm thinking of Turkana County in Kenya and Kakuma as one place where we've worked also with the International Finance Corporation to attract businesses through sometimes de-risking or through sometimes simply telling businesses about the opportunities that could be.
[27:13] Srimathi Sridhar: Let's hear from someone in Kakuma who's working with refugees. Producer Sarah Treanor spoke to one entrepreneur.
Nancy Karambo Riungu: Okay, thank you, Sarah. My name's Nancy Karambo Riungu. I'm based in Turkana. Kakuma, to be precise. I am a business lady. An entrepreneur. Professionally, I am a nurse.
Sarah Treanor: Kakuma, near the South Sudanese, Ethiopian, and Ugandan borders, is host to the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Initially established in 1992, it's grown into a complex, vibrant, and large economy of over 200,000 people. A few years ago, the IFC looked into the size of the Kakuma economy and how the private sector could play a significant role in encouraging development and opportunities. And to support entrepreneurs like Nancy, the IFC set up its first refugee and host community program in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Kakuma Kalobeyei Challenge Fund, KKCF, with partners like the local government and UNHCR. I asked Nancy to talk to me about why she decided to open up a dressmaking and tailoring shop in the area.
Nancy Karambo Riungu: Sarah, my desire to open up a tailoring and dressmaking shop came as a result of the demand for fashion and design. There was none in existence. Especially the host community and refugees had nowhere to do their outfits. Also, school-going kids and nowhere to do their uniforms. So I saved from my nursing career and started a small shop. I started with one machine and one tailor, and because of the demand, it rolled up with time.
Sarah Treanor: Nancy says that gradually she grew her businesses and saw a need to provide training for refugees in the area, as well as people from local towns.
Nancy Karambo Riungu: And with time, I started training the refugees and host community on tailoring and dressmaking, and that is how I managed to grow very fast, because I was given so many students by NGOs around and the government. My business is in Kakuma Town. I have two shops now. The first one is in the middle of, I would say, in CBD of Kakuma Town. I have all my customers mixed. I have refugees. I have host community staff around buying from my shop. I have schools.
Sarah Treanor: Nancy tells me that she sees both the refugee and host communities as part of the same broader community and facing many of the same issues.
Nancy Karambo Riungu: There is a very good relationship between the host community and refugees, and I really enjoy working with all of them. I eventually managed to train so many, some have established their businesses. The only problem I can say is that the poverty index is very high, and despite the fact that so many want to train.
Sarah Treanor: Nancy explains how the IFC has changed things for her.
Nancy Karambo Riungu: Sarah, to be honest, it is a collective responsibility from the government, from the NGOs. Thanks to World Bank through IFC and the Kakuma Kalobeyei Challenge Fund, it has given a boost to many poor people. Let's say, for example, as Nancy [inaudible] Enterprises, through the grant I was given, have been able to employ many people from both host and the refugee community. My dream is not just to train students. I would wish to start a training institution, because there are so many adolescent teenagers who have dropped out of school. I would also pray that more people are given good chances in their communities to be empowered.
[31:48] Srimathi Sridhar: Fascinating insights. Thank you so much, Nancy. And now, let's get some final thoughts from Raouf and Xavier.
Raouf Mazou: If you have a context where you have 350,000 people, they produce, they consume, and you can, as a private sector company coming from outside, whether it is in the agricultural sector, whether it is in education, whether it is in electricity provision, anything, you can come and provide services. Of course, these are contexts where people have a certain degree of vulnerability, a bit higher than in other contexts, and therefore it requires from us, UNHCR, IFC, to be attentive to making sure that when these businesses come, it is for good. For business, of course. For profit. But at the same time, also for good.
Xavier Devictor: I think we need to start by acknowledging that refugees are people. That there are people like just each and every of us, and we need therefore to start managing the situation in the same way that we would manage any other group of people. So we need to start from the assumption that these people actually need to find jobs. That actually these children need to have an education. That actually they can actually contribute in many different ways in the same way that each and every of us can. Very often, I find that we are limited by this perception that, "Oh, they're refugees. They're special." Yes, they are. Yes, they do have specific [inaudible] needs. But at the same time, they're people; and therefore, the more we can do to help them get back to some form of normal life, the better we will collectively be, as it is first and foremost a shift in mindset.
[33:22] Srimathi Sridhar: I want to end this episode with a reflection on life as a refugee. Here's a poem by Kinshasa-born British poet and writer, JJ Bola. It's called "Refuge."
JJ Bola: Imagine how it feels to be chased out of home. To have your grip ripped, loosened from your fingertips, something you so dearly held onto. Like a lover's hand that slips when it is pulled away, you are always reaching. My father would speak of home, reaching. Speaking of familiar faces. The girl next door, who'd eventually grow up to be my mother. The fruit seller at the market. The lonely man at the top of the road who nobody spoke to. And our house, at the bottom of the street, lit up by a single flickering lamp where beyond was only darkness. There they would sit and tell stories of monsters that lurk and came only at night to catch the children who sat and listened to stories of monsters that lurked.
JJ Bola: This is how they lived. Each memory buried, an artifact left to be discovered by archeologists. The last words on a dying family member's lips. This was sacred. Not even monsters could taint it. But there were monsters that came during the day. Monsters who tore families apart with their giant hands and fingers that slept on triggers. The sound of gunshots ripping through the sky became familiar like the tapping of rainfall on a window sill. Monsters that would kill and hide behind speeches, suits, and ties. Monsters that were chased families away, forcing them to leave everything behind.
JJ Bola: I remember when we first stepped off the plane. Everything was foreign, unfamiliar, uninviting. Even the air in my lungs left me short of breath. We came here to find refuge. They called us refugees, so we hid ourselves in their language until we sounded just like them. Changed the way we dress to look just like them. Made this our home until we lived just like them and began to speak of familiar faces. The girl next door who'd eventually grow up to be a mother. The fruit seller at the market. The lonely man at the top of the road who nobody spoke to. And our house, at the bottom of the street, lit up by a single, flickering lamp where beyond was only darkness. There, we would sit and watch police that lurked and came only at night to arrest the youths who sat and watched police that lurked. This is how we lived.
JJ Bola: I remember one day I heard them say to me, "They come here to take our jobs. They need to go back to where they came from," not knowing that I was one of the ones who came. I told them that a refugee is simply someone who is trying to make a home. So next time, when you go home, tuck your children in, and kiss your families goodnight, be glad that the monsters never came for you in their suits and ties. Never came for you in the newspapers where the media lies. Never came for you. That you are not despised. I know that deep inside the hearts of each and every one of us, we are all always reaching for a place that we can call home.
Srimathi Sridhar: Thank you all again for tuning in to our special limited series of The Development Podcast as we explored the refugee crisis in relation to how we can create a world free of poverty on a livable planet. As always, let us know what you think by writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget to take our survey, which you can find on any of our streaming platforms. We look forward to joining you back again soon as we explore green jobs in our economy. If you have a green job that you'd like to share with us, send us an email or let us know on our social media channels. I'm Srimathi Sridhar from Washington, D.C. See you again soon.
ABOUT THE DEVELOPMENT PODCAST
This international development podcast brings together the data, research—and solutions—that can pave the way to a sustainable future. Through conversations focused on revealing the latest data, the best research, and cutting-edge solutions, let us introduce you to the folks working to make the world a better place. Don't miss an episode! Listen and subscribe for free on your favorite platform. And rate our show! ;)
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ABOUT THE WORLD BANK
The World Bank is one of the world’s largest sources of funding and knowledge for low-income countries. Its five institutions share a commitment to reducing poverty, increasing shared prosperity, and promoting sustainable development on a livable planet.