Pam Omidyar said she and her husband, who created the eBay auction site in 1995, had been inspired to help on a personal level after hearing about a visit in July to UNHCR-run refugee camps in South Sudan by three members of The Elders, a grouping of respected international figures dedicated to promoting peace and human rights.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, both Nobel Peace Prize laureates, together with Mary Robinson, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, met Sudanese refugees during a visit to Yusuf Batil Camp in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state. The distinguished visitors said they had come to show solidarity with the forcibly displaced.
Pam Omidyar said the couple, who have long supported efforts to bring peace to the region, were also compelled to act “at a humanitarian level” by the displacement crisis over the past year in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions.
“Our donation to UNHCR is intended to provide urgent assistance to alleviate human suffering, while we continue to address the root causes of the forced displacement of people,” she said. The Omidyars hope their donation will spur further giving from individuals, corporations and foundations.
“Gifts like this have a direct and immediate impact on the lives of refugees on the ground. We are tremendously grateful for the consistent support from the Omidyars. They can be assured that their gift will help save the lives of some of the most vulnerable in South Sudan,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s representative in the United States.
Since June last year, tens of thousands of people have fled fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North and sought sanctuary in South Sudan, which only gained independence last year. Their needs are great and UNHCR staff are working around-the-clock to provide protection and assistance. The health of children is a particular concern, with 15 per cent of those under five in Yusuf Batil camp suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
The refugee agency has called on donors to provide US$219 for its Sudan emergency operation this year. To date, only a third of this amount has been pledged, leaving UNHCR with serious funding challenges.
The Omidyars are known for their philanthropy. The couple have contributed more than US$1 billion to causes ranging from poverty alleviation to human rights to disaster relief.
To learn more about their work, go to www.omidyargroup.com.