|New Approaches to New Realities (University of Wisconsin, 1996, 508 p.)|
|Theme TWO: Political, Security, Protection, Civil and Human Rights Aspects|
This paper was prepared by James Good and Sheila Reed of InterWorks. In addition to the resources listed in the paper, the following people provided significant contributions:
Mohammed Ehsan - is a programme manager for the Norwegian Church Aid/Refugee Council, Afghanistan Programme, Peshawar.
Theresa Hicks - is the Director of the Society of African Missions lay missionaries.
Andrew Mayne - is a Senior Programme Coordination and Budget Officer for UNHCR in Geneva, Switzerland.
Steve Phillips - is with the Society of African Missions Lay Missionary Program working in Accra, Ghana.
Pat Reed - formerly of Intertect in Dallas is an independent consultant working in disaster management.
This paper is a synthesis of the efforts of all of those cited above and as such does not express the viewpoint of any single resource, contributor or organization.
This paper addresses some of the particular circumstances which exist when emergency settlement occurs in a non-camp environment. These situations are typically called urban or dispersed, and are viewed in terms of the unique issues which characterize them. There are increasing numbers of displaced populations, living in a state of urban or dispersed emergency settlement, who require support from the international community.
As opposed to a camp where those taking refuge live together and are served by assistance agencies en masse, the dispersed populations live with and among permanent residents. Two primary concerns regarding urban and dispersed populations are the consideration of host-guest relationships and the need to adapt assistance measures to their specific circumstances, rather than try to apply principles of mass assistance more appropriate for camp-like scenarios. Although many of the principles and practices herein are drawn largely on the experience of UNHCR and other agencies responding to emergencies in camps or camp-like situations during the past 20 years, this paper seeks to establish specific standards for alternative arrangements.
1. Persons displaced by emergencies who find shelter in urban or rural communities have the same rights to essential services and protection as persons accommodated in camps or other types of emergency settlement
An emergency camp situation (especially in the case of refugees) is an artificially created and hopefully temporary environment, which in most circumstances is less preferable (from the point of view of the displaced) to integration of emergency settlers into several local communities. Although in both situations all concerned parties must adapt, the camp environment requires a more extreme degree of behavioral change on the part of the beneficiaries to allow services to be provided as economically and efficiently as possible. Camp residents lose more day-to-day control over their own lives. Situations of extreme crowding and the associated public health and environmental issues are worsened in camp situations.
In the dispersed settlement situation, efforts must be made to uphold the displaced populations choice for integration into the local community even when such arrangements are administratively more difficult for the program administrators. The assistance providers, therefore, must adapt and take deliberate steps to extend their reach and coverage to provide assistance to those dispersed people, even when it appears more efficient to promote centralized distribution. Assistance plans should ensure that the artificial disruption or intrusion of the assistance program into the conditions of normal life is kept to a minimum.
2. Where displaced persons are dispersed throughout local communities and have the opportunity for a more normal and self-reliant way of life, international assistance should be provided in a way which increases the capacity of those people to solve their own problems, and avoids establishing prolonged dependence on food rations or other subsistence allowances.
Assistance providers need to be aware of the peculiar problems likely to occur in dispersed settlement situations. Relationships between assistance providers, those taking refuge, and the host communities and families need to be carefully evaluated. Once a family has accepted the displaced persons under their roof, the emergency assistance providers should consider the capacity, willingness and limitations of the host family and address basic needs for all affected.
Assistance agencies should avoid the tendency to take over assistance programs to dispersed populations based on the assumption that those in need and those providing aid are no longer able to manage their own lives. To respect the ability of the host population, it is important to contact the leaders and update them on the international situation as they provide updates on the local situation. Assistance providers should invite the leaders solutions as part of the emergency plan. The leaders can obtain feedback from their constituents regarding recommended ways to assist the displaced.
The advantages of a dispersed versus a camp settlement relate to the potential for greater self reliance, enhanced dignity and possibly faster recovery. Those directly affected by the emergency may develop more varied strategies for the pursuit of independence and solutions to their emergency situation. Also an enhanced sense of psychological well-being may result from integration with a stable population which is able to offer support and advice.
3. Displaced persons dispersed throughout communities (both urban and rural) are often of diverse origins and backgrounds, and with varying economic statuses and skill levels. Assistance providers should address this diversity when planning their support interventions.
To incorporate issues of diversity into assistance planning, the involvement of those living in situations of emergency settlement should be encouraged. Their diverse skills should be utilized to help move the situation out of the emergency context. This involvement serves to give the displaced more control over their lives, empowering them to solve their own problems. There are many important tasks in emergencies which do not require professional skills, but depend on a willingness to assist such as distributing food, calming people, and directing people to services.
4. Attempts to support dispersed emergency settlement populations must give priority to those with special needs such as the disabled, the elderly, single parents, isolated women without support, or unaccompanied children.
The needs of vulnerable groups in relation to the particular features of dispersed settlement must be emphasized. Groups with special needs do not, however, automatically have priority over the general population. With the added difficulties of access, coverage and information flow in a dispersed settlement situation it will be harder to ensure that the necessary forms of support can be given to those with special needs. Special efforts and arrangements should be made to overcome these limitations. Such attempts should, whenever possible, be based on self-help principles.
5. Programs to support persons dispersed in local communities must respect the interests and structure of the host populations and involve them in the assistance effort.
Respect for the interests of the host population involves an appreciation of traditional leadership structures, and traditional ways of taking decisions, approaching change and solving problems (while not automatically assuming that these structures and approaches are able to cope unassisted with the new responsibilities and demands of emergency settlement, such as food aid distribution). Even when the host population is intent on providing needed assistance, the numbers and needs of the displaced may overwhelm a population which itself may be surviving at a minimal subsistence level.
The integrity of the host communities and their way of life may be dramatically altered by a sustained relief operation. The guest-host relationship can potentially turn into a relationship of exploitation of one party by the other, and the logic of relief operations can too easily be allowed to dictate a new set of rules, procedures and behavioral norms for the whole of the affected area.
6. Decisions to support populations displaced by emergency who are being sheltered in host population homes must consider the capacity, willingness and limitations of the hosts to care for the displaced. Emergency assistance providers should ensure that the basic needs of the host families and the displaced are met and that the capacity of the host population to provide support is routinely reassessed.
In an emergency situation the hosts are often in need themselves and may be tempted to abandon normal activities and join the displaced. In Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, for example, more of the local residents received outside aid than did the 100,000 Kabulie internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing there in a situation of emergency settlement. This resulted in disputes between the host community and the IDPs (Ehsan). Especially in long-term emergency situations, assistance must be extended to host populations when cash and food reserves are depleted. In Sarajevo, for example, it was estimated in early 1995 that 65-70% of the population relied solely on international humanitarian aid to exist (Reed).
7. Programs to upgrade the living environment of the displaced who are dispersed in communities should aim at benefiting needy host populations as well.
Needs must be seen in the larger sense of the collective needs of the displaced, the needs of the host family, where applicable, and of the host community. This may mean, for example, that if the national health structure is unable to provide treatment of a particular disease among the displaced in rural areas, assistance programs should aim to capacitate the existing structure to serve the needs of the entire community, not just the needs of the displaced. Not to do so would likely cause serious political problems in the community between the displaced and the local people as well as between local and national-level leaders and administrators. In this case the needed support should be designed to benefit both the host and guest populations.
Needs and resources assessment must also consider the overriding protection concerns of freedom of movement and freedom to pursue economic opportunity and self-reliance strategies in the overall community context. For example, identification of needs and resources related to arrangements for keeping livestock, for a reliable mail service, and for documents that facilitate movement and travel can be important in this context, where they might only be secondary in a camp situation.
In most cases, those dispersed in communities are not in need of shelter assistance from the international community, although this must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. There should also be no need to provide separate health facilities or security arrangements. However, where the capacity of existing facilities and infrastructures can be improved and made accessible to the displaced populations both the host community and the targeted beneficiaries will benefit.
Staff working with dispersed populations need to be aware of the unique variables in providing support for those populations. While there may be more leeway for creative options in program planning, there may be a greater likelihood that needs and behaviors go unnoticed or work against the ultimate goals of the assistance programs.
Although dispersed settlement often occurs spontaneously, there are often forces which pressure a gradual change from disbursal to concentrated settlement. Wherever food assistance is provided, there are administrative and political pressures to make distribution systems more economical and more centralized over time. Beneficiaries may relocate to be nearer to distributions and to the authorities best able to resolve the problems that arise. Host-guest relationships may become strained. These factors may eventually result in a tendency towards creating camps.
In Cote dIvoire, for example, the continued dispersal strategy resulted from an aversion of the government to camps. Without this stance on the part of the authorities it is possible that refugees, hosts, and assistance organizations might have moved towards camp-based assistance as a mutually acceptable answer to the problems they were facing. The following are some observations and options to consider:
1. Needs are harder to identify and assess in the dispersed situation. Distances between those requiring assistance can be much greater; the number of locations may be much larger and the situation, needs and resources of each location are likely to vary considerably. There is also a danger that displaced persons or other disaster victims could be overlooked.
There are many reasons why persons conducting disaster assessments should strive to obtain information from all of the regions and populations within the disaster site. Most important, all regions may not be affected uniformly by a disaster. Consequently, some regions may contain populations so severely affected by a particular disaster that entire cities are rendered completely inaccessible and incapable of communicating because of the destruction of local roads and communications systems. On the other hand, regions with relatively minor damage and intact communications systems may be able to convey graphic images of highly localized destruction to disaster relief agencies, thereby diverting attention from more devastated regions. For example, during the 1976 Guatemalan earthquake, the mortality rates between cities varied from 36.1 to 234.1 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants. Several of the most devastated villages were isolated by landslides and were unable to communicate their urgent needs to the outside world. It would have been incorrect to interpret that lack of requests for outside assistance from these remote villages meant emergency relief was not urgently needed (Lillibridge, Noji and Burkle, 1993, p. 74).
2. Most communities have not been formed with access to international assistance as the prime design criterion. They are accustomed to coping with a low or minimal level of outside support and applying traditional remedies and self-help solutions. Needy cases are not automatically brought forward for outside help and people sometimes do not wish to offend their hosts by implying that the support they are receiving is, in any way, inadequate. In some cases, the displaced may not have an independent voice - it is the host population that speaks for them, and the hosts assessment of needs can be different from that of the guests and the assistance providers.
3. Host families are more likely to share what they have with the displaced if they are relatives. However, the guest-host relationship may itself give rise to new kinds of need. Debts can accumulate, and repayment is sometimes exacted in the form of reduced food rations. Unfavorable marriages or exploitative work relationships may also be used as a form of repayment.
It would be an oversimplified assumption to claim that everyone has the potential to be more self-reliant in the dispersed settlement than in a camp situation. In a situation of reduced access to assistance due to their dispersed situation, men may turn to crime or to dangerous or exploitative work. Women and children, including unaccompanied minors, may be at risk of being driven into exploitative relationships, work or prostitution by debt or by lack of support. Protection problems may arise from the remoteness of some locations, and the lack of or limited access to authorities or neutral parties prepared to provide protection, arbitration or redress.
Although there are not particular organizations or agencies specializing in the provision of assistance to those in dispersed situations, there are specialized skills and techniques for effectively dealing with the particular challenges of the dispersed emergency settlement situation. Church groups and other local groups with a desire to help might be the best suited to respond in this situation due to their understanding of the local community, the host-guest relationship, and (usually) developmental outlook. Local groups are often organized and ready to respond quickly, but may lack resources. The following are useful characteristics to look for when identifying partners for needs assessment and program implementation for dispersed populations.
· Ability to be impartial in assessing both long-term and short-term needs of both displaced and host populations
· Ability to work with communities by identifying their potential as well as their shortcomings in identifying their own needs, and finding ways to involve them in a responsible, ongoing needs assessment process
· Familiarity with the way of life of the displaced population in their areas of origin, and of the host communities prior to the influx
· Familiarity with existing development plans and approaches of the host area as well as the displaced persons areas of origin prior to the influx
· Organizations with a development background and approach can ensure that necessary levels of relief assistance are seen in the context and planning perspective of longer-term goals of the host area and of both populations.
Since conditions will vary seasonally and from one location to the next, it is difficult to generalize the type of support needed. The assessment has to be continuous or at least periodic, and has to be done community by community, and ultimately, family by family. It is therefore appropriate that the needs assessment process be decentralized to the extent possible; that a capacity be built up for monitoring, assessing and reporting on needs in each area; and that the beneficiary population be closely involved in needs assessment and assistance planning.
To assess needs and resources, it will be necessary to have meetings with both the displaced and the hosts to form the complete picture. The ideas of local leaders, from rural, urban, regional or district levels, should be considered regarding the actions to be taken. An assessment team representing different areas of expertise and including professionals in the host and displaced population should be selected. A useful method for needs assessment of dispersed persons is Participatory or Rapid Rural Appraisal (PRA or RRA) which is an effective and flexible tool for assessment of community needs and resources. These methods are especially appropriate in this situation since they are based on a highly developmental approach.
Estimation of the number of those living in a situation of dispersed emergency settlement is best done by combining and analyzing information from a variety of sources and not giving absolute authority to any single source. This concept is also known as triangulation and applies to virtually all types of assessment (Singleton, et al. 1988). For dispersed populations, however, the approach is even more critical since information is more widely dispersed and therefore more subject to discrepancies. The following sources of information are recommended for possible triangulation:
· Village or town/quarter authority records
· Head counts at food and other distributions
· Dwelling counts
· Mapping of dwellings
· Spot checks on all the above
For a more detailed description of each of the above, please refer to the Emergency Settlement Paper - Needs and Resources Assessment.
The primary skills required to collect information from the sources mentioned above include:
· anticipation of where imperfect methods are likely to prove unreliable
· exercise of judgment as to appropriate action to take
· negotiation/coordination of skills to ensure that too much reliance or authority is not accorded to any given source or method
· keeping all parties involved in the process of interpreting signs of inaccuracy and jointly selecting approaches to achieving tighter results
· commitment, honesty and ability to keep accurate records.
The term census means counting (and where necessary documenting) a population for the purpose of arriving at a number and a population profile. The term registration means listing some or all of a population as beneficiaries of a program of assistance and/or protection in a manner which facilitates the planning of these activities and the distribution of the assistance. (For a more complete discussion of registration see the topic 18 Emergency Settlement paper Population Estimation, Registration and Distribution.)
In dispersed settlement situations there may be more movement of people between locations where assistance is provided, and greater likelihood of double registration. As people move, arrival in the new location will often be recorded, but recording of departure from the previous location will be much less common.
Especially in urban settings, census methods should make the fullest possible use of skilled and educated people among the displaced and host populations. It is possible for a displaced population to organize its own address-based registration, leaving assistance providers or census organizers to concentrate resources on verification and upgrading of standards. Wherever this is feasible, it is likely to prove the most cost effective approach to census or registration. In either a rural or an urban setting, direct involvement of the displaced population in planning and conducting their own census can be a major stimulus to the discovery of a sense of community identity - leading to the setting of self-monitored standards of behavior towards one another, the host population and the assistance providers. It also provides a useful forum for discussion of common problems and creative self-help.
Restricting movement would undermine the freedom of the displaced to pursue ways of improving their own situation. Similarly if spontaneous return to areas of origin is occurring (e.g. to inspect damage to property, to maintain claims to land, or to plant crops in preparation for a gradual return of the family) but families still rely on regular sources of food in the dispersed settlements, it would be counterproductive to design a census method or an assistance program that penalized families for brief periods of absence of some family members.
The preferred method for census is thus one which is designed to be flexible enough to make provision for absence and for movement. This implies creating a non-threatening environment in which families are allowed to record details of all the family members who need humanitarian support, mentioning whether they are present or absent at the time of the census.
Links between assistance programs and the census method are an essential consideration in census design. Assistance planning should be based on a family-level planning figure. According to the assistance policy chosen, this would be based on the number of family members present at the time of the census, plus an assessed number of additional persons from those recorded as absent.
Primary features of the preferred census method
1. Census is location-based and/or address-based - To allow assistance planning figures to be verified and updated by location as necessary, the displaced persons need to be counted and registered in the locations and in the houses where they are living. All records for a single location need to be handled and sorted together so that they can easily be carried back to the place in question for checking and updating. Valid registrations for assistance purposes should consist of a unique combination of personal identity and location of dwelling.
2. Settlements and dwellings need to be accurately mapped - Without a sustained effort to map settlements and to record the location of households, verification following the initial census will be very difficult and may add confusion rather than clarity. Mapping makes it possible for other staff or persons to conduct the verification and acts as a guide for many uses including nutrition surveys, immunization campaigns and use by community services staff. New locations of host families can also be discovered this way. It can provide a basis for the analysis of the dispersed settlement pattern to identify and differentiate the actual existing locations. This is better than following the tendency to lump the displaced together in administratively convenient groups. A further advantage of mapping is that the expansion and contraction of the target population can be monitored over time.
3. A verification phase must be fully integrated into the census - It should always assumed that the initial documentation and census-taking exercise will not be completely accurate. A system of continuous verification should be planned from the beginning. Maps prepared during the census will facilitate this process. Verification exercises should be done in all locations, giving priority and repeating the exercise in locations which require closer scrutiny, for example where headcounts at distributions indicate discrepancies, or where initial mapping or recording proves to have been done incorrectly or incompletely.
Instead of conducting either a formal census exercise or registration, another option to consider is to refresh and improve the quality of available estimates, including records kept locally by the affected population. One way of improving the accuracy and reliability of village-based record-keeping systems is by intervening to ensure the involvement of skilled and responsible persons in the process, and by providing appropriate kinds of support and follow-up.
4. Clear policy on handling new arrivals or other new cases, after the census is completed, must be formulated - In order to prevent the census from casting in stone a settlement pattern that is in fact dynamic (and in refugee situations, to ensure that new arrivals continue to be granted asylum), a fair system for reviewing new arrivals should be agreed before implementation of a census. This involves defining responsibilities for recording new arrivals and ensuring that all locations have the capacity to follow the agreed procedures. Checking on changes of various kinds should be integrated into the work of verification teams.
Even where there is pressure to quickly arrive at a new and accurate total population figure, consideration should nonetheless be given to making registration optional - offering it as a way of explaining ones case and ones situation more fully to assistance providers. This approach may be particularly suitable for nomadic groups, who sometimes resist census or registration as an infringement of liberties or family dignity and who need to retain full freedom to come and go as they choose. Initially, in this approach, the assistance strategy can be to provide assistance to all on the basis of estimated numbers rather than to registered cases only.
One way to encourage registration would be to announce that ration scales will be gradually revised downwards for cases not protected by accurate full-family registration. Registered cases may also be subject to gradual reductions in levels of assistance, but this is done in consultation with the family concerned on the basis of changes in their situation or ability to cope.
Comparative population statistics are the principal indicators for differentiating between chronic needs and emergency needs of an existing settlement receiving an influx of displaced persons. The following are essential working tools for prioritization of needs assessment and assistance efforts:
· estimates or actual figures of the ratio of host to displaced populations by location
· ratio of average host family size to average number of displaced received per household (where applicable)
· relative population profiles of the two communities (single female heads of household, school age children, etc.)
Familiarity with current development plans, projects and standards of local government authorities is essential for distinguishing between chronic needs of the community and new needs resulting from the influx, and for planning assistance approaches that enhance ongoing development efforts. To this end, departments and services implementing existing development schemes should be involved in the new needs assessment which gives them an opportunity to plan for additional inputs in the context of their previously prepared plans and approaches.
Indicators of congestion and overcrowding of houses and overuse of community facilities and services may be obtained by comparing the current situation with prior records. Government information on design capacities of the facilities and/or recollections of staff responsible (e.g. at health facilities), are important sources of information for distinguishing chronic needs and new levels of need. For example, observations of the number of people using a well or public water point, calculations of the amount of water drawn, records of the time it takes for the well to empty and be recharged, combined with discussions with users of the well, are standard methods for determining the extent of new needs and additional capacity required.
In larger urban situations, there is a link between over-use and under-functioning of municipal services. For example, when water services are over-used there is a tendency for breakdowns in the system which result in the provision of even less water than in normal times. The same can be true for the provision of gas, electricity, and centrally heated water which are used for residential heating systems in cold climates.
In these cases the required expertise for reconstruction and repair of services will usually be available locally. What is typically needed from the international community is money and/or specific technical materials for the repair work. The local engineering departments or service ministries should be able to provide specific technical expertise regarding the capacities and irregularities of the systems under their authority.
Indicators of agricultural productivity and previous levels of food self-sufficiency in the community may be difficult to obtain, but even reasonably reliable estimates are helpful for avoiding over-supply of relief food assistance and adversely affecting the productivity of the community.
There are several situations which can lead to emergency settlement in urban centers. These include displacement and loss of shelter due to natural hazards such as earthquakes and storms, and influxes of refugees and displaced who are fleeing war. Additionally, unique urban problems can change a normal community situation into an emergency settlement through loss of basic urban services such as municipal water and sewerage systems and electricity or other fuel sources (especially in very cold climates.) Although these types of emergencies can happen due to economic or other related causes, they are often the result of warfare or situations of siege and/or blockade which may result in damaged urban infrastructure and an influx of refugees and/or displaced people.
Assistance providers must prepare for the particular needs and problems likely to arise in urban and dispersed settings. In situations of civil conflict, cities and towns may come under siege. People may be cut off from their normal sources of food and services. Rural areas may be unable to produce food for themselves and urban markets. Starvation is the single largest cause of death in most sieges (Cuny, 1994, p. 153).
Emergency situations often entail economic collapse where the value of local currency plummets at the same time that prices increase for food and other commodities. Inflated food prices may make food unavailable to the general public long before food supplies actually run out. Those receiving food assistance may be forced to sell some of it for cash and efforts to steal or divert food may increase.
The following are noted as major constraints in attempting to implement humanitarian programs in urban settings:
1. Difficulty getting an accurate registration of the numbers and names of the displaced
2. Additional people living in an already crowded environment
3. Additional demands placed on inadequate facilities
4. Displaced people are located in a place that is not easily accessible and/or crowded in unmarked houses
5. Difficulty communicating with the displaced population
6. Corruption and dishonesty among local leaders and/or phantom registrations
7. Fear of other ethnic groups
Some of the problems associated with urban settings have been addressed by providing the population with the means to contact relatives abroad by phone (incoming calls only) and by mail, facilitating travel to major towns to contact banking services, encouraging participation of the displaced population in planning and implementing their own registration and food distribution systems, forming/supporting a group to research educational opportunities, helping students to apply for grants, and forming a joint host/displaced education committee to design a common curriculum for an education program.
In rural and dispersed settings, constraints to program implementation relate primarily to distance, the number of locations, time between visits to the same location, road conditions, difficult access, extent of services required to reach relatively small numbers of people, and problems in reaching locations in a timely manner. Monitoring is more difficult as the geographic area is much greater, and because different communities may respond differently to local issues. These factors make the application of standards and norms for the entire operation difficult to conceptualize and enforce.
Although it is generally held that dispersed settlement is preferable to camp settlement, many issues arise as a result of the increased difficulty in accessing the dispersed. The disadvantages of dispersed settlements include the difficulty of distinguishing, reaching and assisting the population in need, potentially greater assistance program costs when dealing with both host and guest populations, and many scattered locations instead of fewer concentrated locations. While rural, dispersed settlements are not generally constrained by overcrowding and excess demands on facilities, they face the remainder of the constraints for urban, dispersed settlements (as listed above) in addition to the danger of being attacked if in a conflict area.
The problems of providing humanitarian assistance in rural dispersed settings have, in some cases, been addressed by decentralizing needs assessment, delivery of assistance, and monitoring and follow-up procedures. In some cases several regional logistical centers have been set up. Teams of field workers and staff from various concerned agencies have worked together on programs and problems of their mutual interest.
Some standard universal forms of projects (e.g. latrines, water supply, and registration) can provide opportunities to forge common standards for achieving good levels of participation and replicable approaches. Problems of remoteness and diversity can be gradually overcome. Different areas will often develop different identities and characteristic problems.
Many of the solutions for dispersed settlement are self-help by default. For example, health programs may consist of very little outreach or community participation because of difficulties of coverage, but villages can develop systems for notifying such service providers quickly and for transporting patients to clinics. The following is a short guideline for overcoming common constraints:
1. Work closely with leaders of both the displaced and the local population.
2. Be flexible - refusing to assist others (i.e. soldiers, rebels) can lead to great obstacles. Some provision can be made to assist those in power to help those needing assistance.
3. Communicate with the local population. This can be done through posters at public service places (like clinics, hospitals), radio announcements, and word of mouth.
4. Keep records and hold responsible people accountable.
Information is critical for all aid programs. In cases where the target population is widely dispersed, making this information available to all in an efficient and fair way is much harder than in a confined camp situation. Public relations and awareness-building programs must involve local leaders through town meetings and work with the local service agencies as well as beneficiaries. In rural communities, it is a good strategy to hold meetings on market days or other times known to be active for the community. Collect suggestions for best times and places to meet and be flexible enough to facilitate the flow of information through whatever channels are best suited to the particular situation and context.
A distribution center in the community where supplies can be obtained by use of an identification card with a registration number and perhaps a photo is the easiest to administer and monitor. Assistance providers can make use of already established community distribution centers unless these are known to be problematic or corrupt. In all cases, the distribution agents must guard against prejudice by center staff toward any ethnic groups to avoid the distribution center becoming a political tool or target. Registration with verifiable identification is crucial. The name, age, number of dependents and place of residence are critical pieces of information which should be included in the system. Such ID cards can also be used for obtaining emergency and routine medical assistance. A more comprehensive discussion of registration and distribution systems is taken up under a separate topic paper of this series entitled Registration and Distribution.
Dispersed displaced people may be more vulnerable to exploitative relationships or physical danger because of reduced or tenuous access to humanitarian assistance. This vulnerability may result in specific psychological/counseling needs.
Displaced persons fleeing civil war, violence, or starvation may be in shock. In cases of ethnic war, it is important for assistance providers to be aware of the dynamics of the situation that may have caused the war. The affected must be in a safe environment before they can deal with their traumatic experiences. Children should begin normal activities as soon as possible. Individuals should be encouraged to alert caregivers to signs of trauma in others. Emergency assistance providers should bring in trauma experts to hold workshops, create forums in which the affected can tell their stories, and facilitate the formation of support groups where possible. (See also the topic 19 Emergency Settlement paper Social and Psychological Aspects of Emergency Settlement Situations.)
Monitoring structures or other systems of accountability at distribution centers (amounts received/delivered/on hand) must be in place. The responsible persons at distribution centers must account for all supplies received before they can get a new supply. Except in the case of an ongoing influx where those needing assistance arrive at a greater rate than can be managed by existing structures, supplies should be forwarded on an as-needed basis. In the extreme case of a large ongoing influx, supplies will likely need to be sent based on estimates of expected arrivals as well as registered or estimated existing beneficiaries.
At the time of distribution, spot surveys should be done to determine the numbers and status of the beneficiaries and whether or not they are receiving an adequate ration or other distribution. Monitors should strive to get feedback from the beneficiaries as well as the distributors. Monitors should survey the actual distribution sites during distribution operations. Due to the dispersed nature of the beneficiaries, the assessment of actual use of the distributed aid by the targeted beneficiary group(s) will be more difficult than in camp situations. Therefore, monitors should also make spot visits to beneficiaries places of residence to determine that the assistance is actually reaching those in need.
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