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UNHCR urges public to don fitness trackers to match 2bn km covered by fleeing refugees

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By John McCarthy | Media editor

January 9, 2019 | 4 min read

The UNHCR's new marketing campaign is intent on helping the public empathize with refugees displaced by conflict by urging owners of wearable fitness trackers to unite to raise awareness of the issues and fundraise.

The UN Refugee Agency estimates that refugees fleeing for safety travel more than 2bn cumulative kilometres each year. As a result, it has enlisted the caring public to try and emulate these distances in a show of solidarity.

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UN rolls out refugee campaign

Using fitness apps, supporters can donate their kilometers travelled to a digital hub which will keep track of all contributions as the public looks to emulate the 2bn km. The drive raises awareness of refugee issues and also encourages donations and sponsors. The group is aiming to have 1.5 million people contribute.

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Late in December, Hello Charlie created a launch campaign, and now Great State has pushed the digital hub live, hoping to tap into the post-Christmas exercise schedules of the public. Results will be added in real-time to the campaign website.

Charles Golding, Hello Charlie’s senior creative, said: “After an extensive period of research and development, the team were able to develop a concept that has global resonance and a universal understanding.

"The journey narrative is a strong and evocative motif that runs through the entire campaign. Whether you are walking to school or working out in the gym, the campaign allows for anyone from any background to engage and empathise with a subject matter that is often perceived to be far from many people’s daily reality.”

Lucy Weston, senior art director at Great State, added: “The beauty of this campaign is how easy it makes it for users to connect with refugees. It uses technology in a really subtle way to draw a physical connection and understanding between people who could be millions of kilometres apart and allows people who feel powerless to help make a difference in everyday life.”

The hero video, Step with refugees’, is voiced by actor Ben Stiller.

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