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close this bookRefugee Emergencies. A Community-Based Approach (UNHCR, 1996, 142 p.)
close this folderPart Two. Refugees at Risk
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentVulnerable Groups, Minorities and Isolated Refugees
View the documentRefugee Children
View the documentUnaccompanied Children
View the documentRefugee Women
View the documentSingle-Parent Households
View the documentThe Elderly
View the documentThe Disabled
View the documentMental Health


Key points

Vulnerable Groups, Minorities and Isolated Refugees

· Ensure that vulnerable groups benefit from assistance provided to other refugees, and if necessary take special measures to help these groups meet their basic needs.

· As much as possible, special assistance of benefit to vulnerable groups must be community based, focusing on building their capacity to meet their own needs.

· Assess the capacity of vulnerable groups to meet the day-to-day requirements of life; give priority for tracing and family reunification to individuals unlikely to survive without family or special support.

· Arrange for the systematic identification of refugees with special needs. Outreach services must be used to identify, reach and assess isolated individuals or groups.

Refugee Children

· There is no reason why refugee children should be denied the joy of childhood. Reactivate the sense of childhood.

· If special separate assistance activities for children are required, these should be carried out with the full participation of their families and communities, rather than addressing children in isolation.

· A child's mental health and psycho-social development is to a large extent dependent upon the restoration of daily routines and activities and the resumption of educational, recreational and cultural activities.

· In addition to medical and nutritional assessments, refugee children should be systematically screened to identify those at high risk from mental health or other psycho-social developmental problems.

Unaccompanied Children

· There should be one focal point (organization/agency) to set policy and coordinate the programme.

· Programmes should actively seek to prevent the separation of children from their families. No change in the situation of unaccompanied children which might prevent family reunion should be contemplated unless it is vital for the health and safety of the children.

· Unaccompanied children must be identified and registered as soon as possible. The first source of information is the refugees themselves and the community leaders.

· The primary consideration in any action or decision concerning unaccompanied minors is to promote the best interests of each child.

· Every effort must be made to find an appropriate solution as soon as possible. In most cases this will be family reunion, as a result of successful tracing.

· Material needs should be met to the level and, to the extent possible, in the manner available to other refugee children.

· A family-based approach should be adopted. The children remain in the refugee community with their own families, foster parents, or other family groupings (e.g. adolescents living independently) and siblings are kept together.

· Continuity of the arrangements and persons involved in the care of unaccompanied children is fundamental. This can be best achieved through a community-based approach, where the whole refugee community is involved and responsible for me care of its children.

· For each and every child ensure:

· immediate care and supervision is provided

· as much information as possible is gathered on his/her background and the circumstances of the separation from his/her family;

· medical, nutritional and psychological screening is carried out

· tracing efforts are initiated to find and reunite the child with his/her family wherever possible.

Refugee Women and Single-parent Families

· Set up mechanisms for the physical protection of women at border crossing points, in reception and transit centres and in camps.

· Set up procedures for assisting victims of sexual violence and other forms of physical abuse.

· Involve women in assessments and in planning and implementation of emergency assistance programmes.

· Ensure that female heads of households and isolated women without support have access to the assistance provided to the rest of me population.

· Ensure measures are taken to prevent family separation and the abandonment of children. Give priority to the families of male single-parents, especially those with infants or very young children.

The Elderly

· There is no fixed age at which it can be assumed that older refugees will need special assistance.

· Those without family support are more likely to need special assistance for their day-to-day survival.

· Plan and develop services for elderly refugees along with those for me general refugee population so that these services are integrated with the broader assistance programme.

· Community-based welfare services for the elderly should enhance their social functioning and ability to participate in the community as contributors and beneficiaries.

The Disabled

· Seek to prevent disabilities from arising through providing adequate nutrition, primary health care, immunization programmes, sanitation and by reducing health and safety hazards.

· Give priority to all cases in which the disability represents a serious obstacle to leading a normal life and achieving self-sufficiency.

· Screen all new arrivals, for those who need immediate assistance, and those who should be followed up later. Use outreach services to ensure that whole population is covered.

· The goal of rehabilitation is to restore the disabled to the community in an effort at re-integrating them into the mainstream of the community's activities.

· Families play a major role in helping (or preventing) disabled refugees to achieve social integration, hence the need for a family-based approach to assistance for this group.

Mental Health

· All refugees are potentially "at risk" in terms of their mental health. Provision for their psychological and emotional needs is of equal importance in assisting them not only to survive, but to attain self-sufficiency.

· Preventive measures will seek to re-establish, to the extent possible, normal family and community life, while actively pursuing durable solutions.

· A knowledge and understanding of how the population dealt with trauma, loss, grief and mental illness prior to exile is important.

· It is best for professional therapeutic assistance to be provided by someone of the same cultural background as the person needing help.