2023 has been a turbulent year, and the IRC predicts humanitarian crises like Gaza and Sudan will worsen in 2024. But while the headlines worldwide may be dire, there are still many positive stories and heartwarming moments from 2023 worth remembering.

Here are 17 stories that gave us hope in 2023:

EU leaders agreed on a new framework to strengthen refugee resettlement to Europe 

After years of campaigning by the IRC and partners, in 2023 the EU finally approved the Union Resettlement Framework (URF). This key piece of legislation will help EU states to strengthen their refugee resettlement programmes - making them more structured, predictable and fit for the future. 

Refugee resettlement is not only a lifeline for people in desperate need of a fresh start. It is an important demonstration of solidarity with countries of first arrival that host the vast majority of the world’s refugees, and a cornerstone of any functioning EU asylum system.

Read more about refugee resettlement.

An Afghan family was finally reunited in Italy after being apart for two years

Evacuated to Europe during the change in power in Afghanistan in 2021, Ozair was devastated to leave his family behind. For two years he fought to bring his parents and young siblings to Italy. After they were able to avail of Italy’s humanitarian admissions programme, the family was reunited in August 2023. Read his story.

At the airport in Rome Ozair and his family welcomes his father, reuniting the family at last.
Ozair's family reunites finally at the airport in Rome. The family came up against many hurdles trying to relocate everyone from Afghanistan to Italy but were ultimately successful thanks to humanitarian corridors established by the Italian government.

 Refugee fans enjoyed a Harry Styles show

Three Ukrainian fans of Harry Styles, now living as refugees in Poland, were invited by the pop star to attend his show in Warsaw.

 12.7 million people have accessed crucial information  


Signpost is a unique digital helpdesk for people affected by conflict and disaster across the globe - including Refugee.info - a European information service for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.

By providing accurate, timely information, the service combats disinformation and helps asylum seekers make informed decisions in the midst of crisis. Available in 20 countries and 25 languages, Signpost has reached 12.7 million people across the globe since 2016. In 2023 the project even won a prestigious UN award.

Graphic of world showing Signpost services
Signpost delivers critical information through staff equipped with digital tools, digital channels and social media.

 Displaced Ukrainians are finding jobs in Poland

In Poland, Maryna accessed services for refugee jobseekers and subsequently landed a job as a tram driver in Katowice – a job she had always been interested in. The IRC also hosted a “Work for All” job fair in Poland, encouraging employers to hire refugees and helping them to navigate the job market in their host country.

Woman pointing to a tram
Maryna overcame obstacles as a refugee seeking work in Poland and is now working as a tram driver
Photo: Tamara Kiptenko for the IRC

 We heard songs of support for Ukrainians

Hosted in Liverpool on behalf of last year’s winners, Ukraine, the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest proved to be an emotional event. There were many tributes to those affected by the war, including a stirring chorus of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

Anticipatory action helped climate-vulnerable communities

Anticipatory action means aid can be delivered before the onset of a predictable event like floods, instead of delivering aid after the disaster. The IRC’s research shows anticipatory action can reduce the negative impacts of climate shocks on small farming communities. For example, reducing the impact of food insecurity and loss of livelihoods caused by floods.

Man sitting on a motorcycle with a water-pump on the back
Shaibu Mohammed bought a motorbike and motorized water pump to prepare for flooding in Northeast Nigeria
Photo: Taiwo Aina for the IRC

Nampaji switched gears from nursing to car repair

“I have had an attraction to car engines since I was a little girl but while growing up people claimed that women can't accomplish anything in this field”.

Hajjara Nampaji was among the refugees and host community members in the Re:BUiLD programme in Kampala. Read her story.

IRC client fixes a car air filter after cleaning it
“I have had an attraction to car engines since I was a little girl but while growing up people claimed that women can't accomplish anything in this field”.
Photo: Nathan Ijjo Tibaku for the IRC

Teachers in the UK are helping refugee students through art

The IRC’s Healing Classrooms programme trains schools and educators on how to offer refugee and asylum-seeking children a safe place to learn and thrive after experiencing conflict and crisis. One approach is use of art classes. Read more.

Healing Classrooms project
Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS) specialist teacher Suzanne Fisher holds an art exhibition for her students following the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) Healing Classrooms programme.
Photo: Suzanne Fisher

Remote learning shown to help children in hard-to-access settings

Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are building literacy, numeracy and social skills from remote learning. Early childhood development is hugely important, but in conflict and crisis contexts, 80% of young children cannot access education. Read more about the Ahlan Simsim study in Lebanon.

Promotional picture for Ahlan Simsim of Sesame Street character playing with children
Ahlan Simsim is a groundbreaking education project run by the IRC and Sesame Workshop (the organizaton behind Sesame Street) that helps children in hard-to-reach contexts.

Heba Saadieh became the first Palestinian World Cup referee

Heba Saadieh, born to Palestinian parents, grew up in Syria where she studied sports education in university. When the war broke out, she was forced to flee to Malaysia. There she joined a referees' training programme.

Afghan refugee Saghar is following her dreams in the UK

Having left behind her life in Afghanistan, Saghar faced barriers in adjusting to her new home in the UK, including limited English skills, but was determined to rebuild her life in the UK. Read Saghar’s story.

Saghar Khalid fashion college
After completing the IRC's leadership course, Saghar Khalid, 27, is now enrolled in a fashion design diploma in Liverpool.
Photo: Saghar Khalid

Mothers like Hadjara are diagnosing malnutrition at home

Every Friday, Hadjara has a weekly routine. She reaches for a measuring tape and checks the arms of her children. It takes 5 minutes to check if they are healthy. 2 million children die from malnutrition annually, despite it being easily treatable. Read about the IRC’s campaign for improved access and simplified treatment.

Smiling woman wearing pink head scarf holding child
“This used to be difficult. I used to take my kids to the community health center, and it took me a long time.”
Photo: Giorgio Faedo for the IRC

Water helps women and girls in Ethiopia

Thanks to the work of IRC Environmental Health Officer Adem and his team, new water points and toilets have been installed in drought-hit neighbourhoods in Ethiopia, improving health and hygiene and allowing girls to resume their education. 

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The Hussaini family were reunited

Amid the chaotic scenes at the Kabul airport in August 2021, Hazar and Sanowbar Hussaini were torn apart from their beloved daughters, which led to a heart-wrenching two-year wait for their reunion. Read their story.

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Oksana is building her career in the UK

Oksana came to the UK with her two sons as part of the Homes for Ukraine programme in 2022. Having found a new home and spent time volunteering, she now has a job working for Homes for Ukraine itself, helping other refugees. Oksana graduated from the IRC’s RISE programme earlier this year.

Children are learning through play in Uganda

Research has shown that play gives refugee children a chance to overcome trauma, learn and thrive. Through the PlayMatters initiative, the IRC and partners are working together with the LEGO Foundation to show that it is possible to reach every refugee child in East Africa with play-based learning.

Children with buildings made from Lego taking part in IRC Lego PlayMatters
Through play students develop key sharing and cooperation skills that you don’t get from traditional teaching methods.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) helps people affected by humanitarian crises to rebuild their lives. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, we now work in over 50 crisis-affected countries.