|Counting and Identification of Beneficiary Populations in Emergency Operations (ODI, 1997, 110 p.)|
|6. Identifying a beneficiary population: a social, cultural, economic and political profile|
Often, though seldom from the very beginning, do social scientists conduct research among displaced populations. Where registers have been established, these may be of some, albeit limited, use to them. Even though they may not be accurate in their precise figures, they can, in principle, provide a basic demographic profile with breakdowns of age, sex, family composition, place of origin and date of arrival or registration. Still, such basic profiles should be cross-checked: even simple observation can reveal that a camp population is mostly made up of women and children, the men having registered but then left for work or to fight.
Although for certain types of research, especially demographic and epidemiological, the data contained in registers is useful, additional sample surveys will usually be conducted, due to doubts over the accuracy of the register. Registers, moreover, will typically not contain the information that is relevant for research into the socio-economic characteristics and conditions of a displaced population, for example employment history, level of education, household income, or age of marriage (e.g. Christensen and Scott, 1988).
Rapid research may also highlight highly relevant differences within a displaced population that are ignored by the uniform administrative picture that is portrayed by registers. Looking at a displaced population as a registered entity, decision-making can become dangerously simple, without regard for the conditions and the consequences of those affected by it.
Rapid research around repatriation and camp closure in eastern Ethiopia
In 1993, UNHCR and the Ethiopian Administration for Refugee Affairs began to discuss an assisted repatriation of refugees to Somaliland. Overall food supplies had already been reducing in volume and regularity for about a year, and a degree of spontaneous repatriation had taken place. The administrative definitions of the camp populations were as follows: refugee, returnee and local or locally displaced. Concerned about poor and vulnerable groups, Save the Children (UK) organised a rapid anthropological survey of the populations of seven camps. This was conducted by a Somali anthropologist and four of the organisations Somali staff. The research identified the existence of different clan sub-segments in each camp, their specific area of origin and the reasons why they had chosen so far to remain in the camps. It turned out that some groups had genuine security concerns, and that there were identifiable poor who would be in need of more assistance than the proposed package provided. Others wished to remain because they had found a livelihood in the trading centres that the camps had become. Finally, the results indicated that vulnerable groups had suffered disproportionately from the effective cuts in rations. (Yussuf Farah, 1994).