Every Refugee Counts, Every Action Counts (Warmilu Commemorates International Refugee Day)
Every minute, 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror.
When Warmilu began working overseas, we never could have imagined how many of our partners care for refugees by providing them with access to healthcare, education, shelter, and disaster response. This year’s 2020 Theme: Every Action Counts resonates powerfully, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent Black Lives Matter peaceful protests have shown how hard we must continue to fight for a more inclusive and equal world.
How Warmilu grew from the hard work and humanitarian compassion and support of Relief for Africa, a resource provider for refugees and new immigrants Michigan
Terrorists, AK-47s, rural dirt roads, war violence, IEDs, military encampments. These are not something you would expect to find in Michigan, but you might hear stories about these things and the heartache of leaving your home country from some of the, on average, 3,000 refugees a year who settle in in Michigan. 
From the fiscal year 2012 through 2018, Michigan was the fourth largest state in the country to accept refugees behind Texas, California, and New York. Rama Kannennje and Relief for Africa Foundation helped Warmilu break into over 30 hospitals based in 15 countries.  Rama Kannenje (President, Relief for Africa Foundation) was a Kenyan immigrant to the United States. He settled in Michigan to study at Eastern Michigan University and rapidly dove into the healthcare ecosystem in Michigan, beginning work at the University of Michigan Hospital. He never forgot his roots, putting in long hours and founded an organization, Relief for Africa, that could provide resources to refugees and new immigrants to Michigan to better adjust to life in the states. Upon seeing perfectly functional second-hand medical devices and equipment getting thrown away, Rama realized there was an opportunity to do something extraordinary by donating those supplies to organizations in the Horn of Africa region. He began exploring how to better connect healthcare systems in Michigan, NGOs, hospitals, and clinics with their counterparts overseas to coordinate medical device and equipment donations. RFA successfully began donating medical equipment, even large durables such as ambulances, to government hospitals.
Rama became a liaison as well for partner organizations, such as Warmilu, by helping key leadership set up visits with hospitals and clinics in need of infant warming blankets. Rama and Caleb Kapten helped the Warmilu team visit 10 hospitals in Kenya and 3 hospitals and clinics in Uganda from 2016 to 2017.
Rama’s former and current experiences led Warmilu to safely and successfully build early relationships and present the blankets and packs to dignitaries, governors, first ladies, doctors, nurses, midwives, and others including Dorothy and Peter Nyong’o, the parents of Academy-Award winning actress Lupita Nyong. RFA and Rama catalyzed Warmilu’s introductions and subsequent infant warming projects in Kisumu County at Kombewa Hospital.
“Rama Kannenje is the President of Relief for Africa Foundation. I will never forget the first time he called – Warmilu had just published a clinical trial on infant warming outcomes. Rama was looking for infant warming solutions after a meeting with Ministry of Health officials and, within the hour, I learned all about the Kenya healthcare system and the risks facing infants born preterm as seen in Kenya. I saw right away how truly compassionate, kind, insightful, and intelligent Rama was. Rama and his team are now one of our best partners and helped us successfully present at the earliest conferences and set up our first pilots. We would not be here if not for RFA.”
- Grace Hsia, Warmilu
One of our best partners, Relief for Africa Foundation (RFA), was founded by refugees from Kenya. Without RFA, we never would have started warming babies successfully.
There are many ways you can become forcibly displaced.
There are also many ways to help. There are 65.3 million forcibly displaced people around the world. More than 21 million of these people are refugees and 10 million are stateless.
To give, you can check out organizations like World Refugee Day and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to learn about current ways to help.
Global Giving – World Refugee Day and 7 Facts to Know: https://www.globalgiving.org/world-refugee-day/
International Rescue Committee:
UNHCR World Refugee Day: https://www.unhcr.org/refugeeday/
We Are All America: https://www.weareallusa.org/wrd2020_events
Source: World Refugee Day. United Nations 2020. https://www.un.org/en/observances/refugee-day
A refugee is someone who fled his or her home and country owing to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”, according to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. Many refugees are in exile to escape the effects of natural or human-made disasters.
Asylum seekers say they are refugees and have fled their homes as refugees do, but their claim to refugee status is not yet definitively evaluated in the country to which they fled.
Internally Displaced Persons
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are people who have not crossed an international border but have moved to a different region than the one they call home within their own country.
Stateless persons do not have a recognized nationality and do not belong to any country.
Statelessness situations are usually caused by discrimination against certain groups. Their lack of identification — a citizenship certificate — can exclude them from access to important government services, including health care, education or employment.
Returnees are former refugees who return to their own countries or regions of origin after time in exile. Returnees need continuous support and reintegration assistance to ensure that they can rebuild their lives at home.
Citations & Sources
- “Michigan becomes a haven for Congo refugees” Detroit News. April 2019. https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/04/12/michigan-becomes-haven-congo-refugees/3287895002/#:~:text=Michigan%20resettled%20650%20refugees%20in,last%20decade%20%E2%80%94%20found%20homes%20here
- “Coalition aids Michigan immigrants, refugees as resettlement declines” Detroit News. September 2019. https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/09/05/collective-aids-michigan-immigrants-refugees-resettlement-declines/2210816001/
- “Somali president says 200 Kenyans killed in military camp attach.” World News, Reuters. February 25, 2016. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-kenya/somali-president-says-200-kenyans-killed-in-military-camp-attack-idUSKCN0VY1VL]