My job at the United Nations is to inform the public about the state of our world. That involves stories of ever-growing numbers of people suffering, wars erupting, a deadly virus spreading, economies collapsing and the planet taking revenge for being repeatedly abused.

This information matters. It is about the consensus of the science of climate change or guidance on protection from COVID-19. It represents the surging data of need — numbers of war refugees, girls forced to marry, fathers and mothers losing their incomes, families starving, children out of school, people trafficked, and workers exploited.

These are the statistics…

This is a message for our world’s forcibly displaced people. World Refugee Day is devoted to you, the uprooted people among us. To honor your humanity, acknowledge your plight and to offer you our solidarity.

Image for post
Image for post
Artwork by Lukas Hueller, Tree of Hope, shot with Syrian refugee children at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. I have a print of this image hanging on my office wall at UnitedNations HQ in New York

In my ten years working for UNHCR, I traveled to where you fled to hear your stories. Of what you lost, how you survived and what gives you hope. You moved me to tears. I couldn’t fathom what you endured and how you survived. The resiliency of your spirit always left me humbled but also inspired.

Image for post
Image for post

Trusted communications are essential in any successful response to a public health crisis. But COVID-19 is not just any health crisis. This pandemic is rendering even powerful countries helpless, as it mercilessly takes lives and upends livelihoods in all corners of the world.

Misinformation makes the virus more dangerous. Coronavirus fiction is often circulating faster than fact, endangering the public health response — and ultimately, people’s lives. Purveyors of misinformation are creating slick content and storylines that are filling an information vacuum, where factual content is hard to find and scientific research is currently inconclusive. They promise cures that are…

Some of the most brave and caring people I have ever met joined me in the recording studio and told me what keeps them awake at night.

Image for post
Image for post
In the recording studio with Sajjad Malik, who has worked with UNHCR for almost 30 years and is currently leading the agency’s work inside Syria.

When I started recording a new podcast series at UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, I had no idea how emotional the experience would be.

I have met some extraordinary people who have devoted their lives to the cause of serving refugees, but what I always wonder is what drives them. What keeps them going? What keeps them awake at night?

Listen to Awake At Night online and subscribe to hear it first


The private sector has an important role to play besides philanthropy

Image for post
Image for post
In 2016, Syrian refugee Ibrahim Toto was awarded the only permanent job at the laundry company midtVask in Aarhus, Denmark. He now mentors newly arrived refugees. © UNHCR/Christian Als

I recently had the honor of co-hosting the first-ever TEDx event held at a refugee camp — it took place at Kenya’s Kakuma Camp, home to more than 186,000 people from 19 different countries. The 15 speakers and artists were a mix of current and former refugees as well as experts who study how the public and economies respond to them, and you’ll be able to watch their talks and performances online in the weeks to come.

While TEDxKakumaCamp took many months of planning to pull off, not every effort to help refugees is so time-consuming. In the past, I’ve…

TEDxKakumaCamp focused the eyes of the world on the stories of people rebuilding their lives after fleeing devastating conflicts.

Image for post
Image for post
Children play at the Umoja Women’s village in northern Kenya. The village is a sanctuary for women who have fled sexual violence, forced marriage and Female genital mutilation (FGM). © Georgina Goodwin/TEDxKakumaCamp

I’ve just returned from Kakuma Camp, north western Kenya. There, together with a remarkable team, I co-hosted TEDxKakumaCamp — the first ever TEDx event in a refugee camp.

The guests may have left, the tent may be taken down, but this is just the beginning. I hope we’ve kickstarted a conversation that changes the way the world thinks about refugee camps.

Not only that, but the films of our refugee speakers will continue to shine a light on this neglected place and focus the eyes of the world on the stories of people rebuilding their lives here after fleeing devastating…

Image for post
Image for post
UNHCR High Profile Supporter Ben Stiller meets young refugees at Azraq camp, Jordan. © UNHCR/Jordi Matas

As Head of Communications at UNHCR I am often asked how we get people to care about the growing numbers of forcibly displaced people across the world.

My team and I put together this Communications Charter which sets out how we try to use communications to make the world a more compassionate place for refugees.

1We embrace the new era of communications. We live in a media age that is exploding with new digital technologies, that is highly transparent yet also full of “fake news”. …

When I met Somali refugees who have been displaced for decades they told me they long to reestablish their lives at home, but they also explained their fears of going back.

26 years. That is how long Somalia has been riven by conflict. A conflict that has driven millions of its citizens from their homes to other parts of the country or across borders. Through all this time, my organization, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency has never stopped aiding the displaced and advocating for peace. All refugees tell us they want to go home and help rebuild their country, but only when they feel safe.

Last week, I visited Somalia with the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. This was my fourth time in the country, and I was pleased to…

My work for UNHCR, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees often makes me think about how many people in the world do not have a home.

Image for post

Where, what is home? These sayings might come to mind…

Home is where the heart is.

An Englishman’s home is his castle.

Charity begins at home.

Bricks and mortar make a house, but the laughter of children makes a home.

The chickens have come home to roost.

There is no place like home.

Home sweet home.

Give me a home where the buffalo roam.

East or west, home is best.

Home is where you hang your hat.

Any Bob Dylan fans here — the recent Nobel Laureate for Literature? No Direction Home.

The Somali poet, Warsam Shire wrote:

No one…

What Breast Cancer Taught Me

One year ago, I was in a hotel room in New York, when I felt the lump on my breast, a hard, protruding growth that was impossible to ignore. Years of stress and anxiety, lack of sleep and neglected check-ups had given a cancer tumor the perfect environment in which to grow.

At that moment, I joined the one in eight women who will get breast cancer; fortunately, I was among the lucky ones who caught it before it could metastasize. After eight rounds of “excessive chemotherapy”, breast-preserving surgery, the removal of nine lymph nodes…

Melissa Fleming

Chief Communicator #UnitedNations promoting a peaceful, sustainable, just & humane world. Author: A Hope More Powerful than the Sea. Podcast: Awake at Night.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store