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View the documentCASE STUDY: Resettlers find livelihoods in Khartoum

CASE STUDY: Resettlers find livelihoods in Khartoum

Case Study Resettlers Find Livelihoods in Khartoum

Reference: Gamal Mahmoud Hamid "Livelihood Patterns of Displaced Households in Greater Khartoum" Disasters, Volume 16 Number 3, September 1992, p. 230-239


Nearly 400,000 people took refuge in Khartoum, Sudan following a famine in 1984-5. After a successful rainy season in 1985-6 many of the displaced persons voluntarily returned home, but many tens of thousands were unable or unwilling to return. In addition to those affected by drought, an estimated 1.8 million people went to Khartoum to flee the war in the south. Thus, the population of Khartoum doubled in a period of seven years and continues to have a 10.5% yearly growth rate.

The displaced or resettled people faced the grim aspects of daily life typical of situations all over the world where displaced persons have resettled in crowded urban areas. In 1988, flash flooding in greater Khartoum left over 2 million in need, many of whom were displaced persons living in spontaneous settlements (called mo'askarat). The large influx of persons without ration cards drove black market prices higher and caused resentment among the host community in a market already highly competitive for jobs and commodities. Most of the spontaneous settlements lacked adequate health and education facilities or drainage and sanitation services. There was a high incidence of disease among young children.

It was clear that improvement in living conditions was urgently needed for the populations in the mo'askarat. The ability of the government to extend infrastructural services to the resettled people was hampered by lack of resources and also by the perception that they were there temporarily. However, in reality they were unlikely to return to their homelands until the conditions which forced them to move changed.

Despite the odds in Khartoum, many of the resettled people integrated and became mainly self-supporting after a period of dependency on assistance. How did they manage? To find out, a survey was conducted of households from 96 unplanned settlements in greater Khartoum. The majority of these households had arrived since 1984. It was found that most of the resettled males earned a living as unskilled day laborers in construction industries and marketplaces. For this group, there was little or no job security. Therefore, to guard against prolonged unemployment, most family members held a variety of jobs. About 10 percent were self-employed in micro-enterprises such as water vending and petty trade. To obtain capital to invest, many sold assets in their homelands such as livestock or obtained informal credit. Some women worked as domestic servants in wealthier neighborhoods. Women also sold food and beverages, particularly marisa, a local beer, which was frowned upon by authorities and often confiscated by police.

Other coping mechanisms to fill gaps in income included sharing food among households and other reciprocal arrangements. Income was often pooled among family members. Some were also receiving or sending small remittances to extended family members outside Khartoum. About 44% were given commodity rationing cards which allowed them to procure cheaply rationed items such as sugar and oil. Some communities were given water tanks so they did not have to purchase water. Children who were sent to school received free breakfast and supplies.