How UNHCR talked about 1,000,000 Syrian refugees

One in a million on Instagram. Photo: UNHCREarlier this week, the UN’s refugee agency counted 1,000,000 Syrian refugees. The problem with big numbers is that they get lost in the noise and in the news; the key is to personalize these numbers. Here is what UNHCR has done.

One in a million

Of course it’s impossible to know who is the 1 millionths refugee, but looking at when she entered Lebanon, 19 year old Bushra could be it. I really like the photo of her on Instagram where she hold up a sign saying “One in a million”. There is also a YouTube video in which she talks about her new life in Lebanon.

On Pinterest UNHCR created a small photo album for her.  In addition, the Pinterest album contains an infographic showing various statistics. Personally, I think there is too much text in that infographic, but judge for yourself:

Photo series on Al Jazeera Stunning photo series

For me, the strongest images and hands down best idea is the UNHCR photo series published on Al Jazeera.  For this stunning series of 13 photos, a UNHCR photographer asked Syrian refugees to show him the most important object that they managed to flee with. The refugees themselves are partly covered to protect their identities, but the stories that go with these images are heart breaking. The photos were also uploaded to Flickr.

This series reminded me a lot of the “Long Walk” photo series that showed the shoes that refugees arrived in a South Sudanese camp with – another great example of taking a big number and making it personal.

UNHCR Facebook cover imageNew Facebook cover photo, Twitter hashtag

UNHCR also changed their Facebook cover photo to highlight the crisis in Syria. It’s not a big thing, but I like how this shows that UNHCR is trying to push this issue across all channels. The same goes for the Twitter hashtag.

Packaging with Storify

Last but not least, the UNHCR team created a Storify page that shows the various social media activities of UNHCR related to the 1-million-mark as well as international news coverage about it. Storify took a while to grow on me, but I think this is another good example for how to use it.

Do you have a recent example of a humanitarian organisation promoting an issues across channels? If so, please leave a comment below.


  1. Esteban Mucientes March 15, 2013
  2. GuyG April 30, 2013