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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder10. Community Services and Education
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOverview
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentOrganizing Community Services
View the documentHuman Resources
View the documentFamily Tracing and Reunification
View the documentGroups at Risk and Vulnerable Groups
View the documentEducation
View the documentKey References
View the documentAnnexes



The trauma of becoming a refugee can be very great. Normal structures which have regulated community well-being and also cared for groups at risk such as older persons, women, children and the disabled, have broken down and need rebuilding. Social and psychological problems are created or exacerbated and appropriate measures for resolving these problems are essential.


To provide for the welfare of the whole refugee group and to ensure that the most vulnerable refugees have equal access to basic goods and services.

To assist the re-establishment and development of refugee community structures which can be used in the management of the assistance programme and which can also minimize longer-term problems of dependency.

To ensure that the assistance provided is appropriate for the refugees.

Principles of Response

· Refugee community participation (including both men and women) should be promoted in all sectors, by building on the community's own resources as much as possible and encouraging individual, family and group self-reliance;

· Special services for the vulnerable should, as far as possible, be provided by the refugee community itself;

· Services should be decentralised but within a structured plan, and must reach those in need;

· Community services should be developed in co-ordination with and in support of the priority life support sectors and should be an essential component of the overall assistance operation.


· Assess community problems, needs and resources. Help refugees to identify and establish the services which will meet their needs in all sectors;

· Ensure prompt identification of and support to the most vulnerable;

· Develop appropriate community management structures including mechanisms to ensure participation of women in decision-making and ensure that all groups within the population are appropriately represented. Identify community workers who can help the vulnerable, spread relevant information and support other sectors;

· Take immediate action to prevent family break-up and reunite families as soon as possible.

· Identify and provide care for all isolated vulnerable individuals, especially unaccompanied minors. Spontaneous groupings, if already bonded, should be kept together;

· Establish communication links with the refugees to ensure good two-way communication between the refugees and those assisting them;

· Build the capacity of the community by identifying training needs and by helping to organize practical and hands-on training in community work.