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|2020 year-end results|
|5,068||refugee children in six public schools benefited from additional hand-washing stations, sanitary pads incinerators, sanitizers, masks, cleaning supplies to facilitate the “return to school” programme|
|2,118||households (38% headed by women) received cash assistance to mitigate socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic|
|967||persons at heightened risk were provided with livelihood opportunities, cash assistance, shelter, medical and/or education services|
|841||people of concern were provided with guidance on business opportunities|
|591||refugees (404 women) attended sensitization sessions on gender-based violence|
|100%||of refugees had access to public health care|
|100%||of refugee children had access to public education|
|76%||of refugee children were enrolled in public education system|
|2021 planning figures|
|100%||of children and young people of concern will have access to national education systems|
|100%||of asylum-seekers and refugees will have access to UNHCR|
|90%||of people of concern will access national or Government primary health care facilities and a referral system will be established|
|65%||of people of concern will use self-reliance and livelihoods opportunities in their country of asylum|
People of Concern
Operational contextIn close partnership with the Government of Nepal, UNHCR promoted refugees’ self-reliance through inclusion in public services and livelihoods while enhancing socioeconomic synergies with host communities. In practice, the Government generously provided access to education and health services.
UNHCR advocated the issuance of legal identity documentation for all refugees and inclusion of persons at heightened risk in public social protection services, while continuing to provide them targeted support.
Nepal has been expressing its readiness to engage with the Government of Bhutan on voluntary repatriation of the 740 Bhutanese refugee households (target based on the most recent UNHCR profiling exercise-which took place in 2019) wishing to return to Bhutan, and UNHCR continued advocacy for dialogue.
The COVID-19 pandemic put enormous additional challenges on public services and the economy. Refugees in Nepal were included in the UN COVID-19 Preparedness and Response and Socio-Economic Response plans, as well as in the national COVID-19 response.
While hosting refugees on its territory since 1959, Nepal has neither ratified the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, nor the 1967 Protocol, and it has not developed a national refugee law. Nepal has also not ratified the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Population trendsIn 2020, Nepal was hosting nearly 20,000 refugees. Approximately 12,540 Tibetans were residing in 13 settlements across the country, 6,365 Bhutanese were in two settlements in the east of Nepal, 654 refugees and 43 asylum-seekers of other nationalities were in Kathmandu. There were no available figures on statelessness, however studies estimate that a number of individuals originally from Nepal lack civil registration documents and citizenship certificates.
Key achievementsIn 2020, UNHCR in Nepal:
- Strengthened partnership with the Government, which resulted in the successful Inclusion of refugees in public education and health, with the Ministry of Health and Populations including refugees in the national COVID-19 response.
- Concluded a joint data-sharing agreement with the Ministry of Home Affairs, which resulted in the successful handover of Bhutanese refugee data from UNHCR to the Government of Nepal.
- Strengthened small-scale refugee businesses and started, in collaboration with local authorities, an agriculture project for refugees and the host community in the east of Nepal, thereby improving refugees’ self-reliance.
- Strengthened partnerships with development actors. UNHCR and ILO signed a Joint Action Plan 2020-2021 to enhance self-reliance and livelihoods of refugees and the host community.
- Supported local environmental protection efforts by donating two tipper trucks for garbage collection and 13,000 tree saplings for refugees and the municipality in which they reside.
- UNHCR closed its Sub-Office in Damak on 31 December 2020 after having provided direct support to Bhutanese refugees for three decades, and after having made significant investments in local public health, education, and livelihoods facilities with a tripled injection in 2020 and the Government of Nepal taking on the important responsibility of protection and assistance.
Unmet needsDespite high-level advocacy and repositioning of funding towards important sectors such as water, sanitation and hygiene, cash assistance and education, needs far exceeded the available resources in 2020 for UNHCR.
- Cash assistance fell short of meeting the level of Nepal’s social protection scheme.
- Procurement of tablets for remote learning was possible only for 500 school going children.
Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)In 2020, Nepal received USD 4.1 million as unearmarked and softly earmarked contributions, which enabled the operation to meet critical needs of refugees such as health, education and COVID-19 prevention and responses. Funding for activities that could not be carried out due to the movement restrictions, such as training and additional livelihood activities, were reallocated in support to cash-based interventions, emergency health response and remote learning tools.
Working environmentNepal has not acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol and has not established a national legal framework concerning asylum-seekers and refugees. Nevertheless, Nepal has a long tradition of providing asylum to refugees and the government is expected to collaborate closely with UNHCR to jointly address challenges.
Key prioritiesIn 2020, UNHCR will prioritize achieving solutions for protacted refugees; promoting self-reliance through greater livelihood opportunities; enhancing community-based protection; reinforcing inclusion with enhanced access to public services and synergy with host communities; and improving engagement with development actors and development processes such as the UNDAF.
By the end of the year, UNHCR intends to close the office in eastern Nepal in anticipation of having achieved key milestones in providing local solutions for Bhutanese refugees.