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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


1. The shock of having to leave home and the circumstances of life as a refugee, particularly in the early stages of an emergency, create major emotional and social problems and exacerbate existing problems in the community. The trauma of flight and its aftermath may leave the refugees confused, frightened, lonely and insecure, facing an unknown future in a strange, sometimes hostile, environment. Separation from or loss of other family members as well as lack of community support are common in refugee emergencies, and causes emotional stress and problems for individuals and their community.

2. The most important action that can be taken to help reduce the shock and stress for the community is to provide security, stability and protection. In part this can be done materially, and in part by ensuring protection and involving the refuges from the start in the organization of all aspects of their new lives, and in particular the search for durable solutions. Community services are a vital bridge between the refugee and the goods and services of the new settlement. Without help in adjusting to this new environment, the sense of loss and isolation can deepen even in circumstances of relative material well-being.

3. It is important to involve the refugees in the provision of assistance and allow the community to share the responsibility of caring for itself and its vulnerable members. This minimizes dependency and encourages self-reliance.

The approach used during the emergency period will determine the whole pattern of behavioural response of refugees towards external assistance.

4. In every emergency, there will be refugee groups at risk with psychological or social problems that require particular attention. The most vulnerable are those with no family support who are dependent on external assistance for their daily survival. This dependence may be because of their age; their physical condition; their psychological condition; or socio-economic problems. The social disruption of emergencies causes these problems to be both aggravated and overlooked - but in stable non-emergency situations, the community itself meets many of the needs of groups at risk. Thus services to meet these needs are best given in a community-based programme.