Victims of Conflict: Agency and Rebuilding

Victims of conflict are often perceived as being helpless and unable to care for themselves in any way. This myth is widely accepted in the developed world, but there is much more to a refugee or IDP (Internally Displaced Person) than this. Their homes and lives may be lost, but their intelligence and skills are not.

The life of a refugee or IDP is incredibly difficult. After losing their homes to conflict and war, these people must find safety and refuge. Then, they must go on to essentially rebuild their lives. This is an immense task, which RIJ’s Beth Garcia describes in detail in her latest blog post (previous to this one). Though the task is formidable and daunting, displaced people can rise to the challenge through their own efforts and what they do with the help that is given to them.

Many people and organizations tend to focus on immediate aid for displaced people. Examples of this are providing essential supplies, such as food, water, and shelter. Some large aid organizations or governments provide hospitals for the sick and injured. These are, of course, crucial elements in aiding displaced people. However, immediately given aid can only last for so long. What is to be done then in respect of long term sustainability?

Refugees and IDPs themselves have proven that long term sustainability can be achieved through their own agency. Take, as an example, meeting food requirements. Given the right conditions, people from camps often grow crops to produce their own food, and can later use these skills to rebuild their lives and have their own incomes upon returning home.

While providing aid is certainly required, what displaced people do with this aid demonstrates their intelligence and ability to make better lives for themselves.

RIJ is currently working with Lutheran World Federation to help fund an environmental conservation project in Uganda. This project aims to help returnees from camps have their own sustainable source of food and supplies. It will help empower returnees with the ability to contribute to their own self-sustainable community.

Here’s a link to the project for more info: http://refugeesinternationaljapan.org/lwf_kitgum_2013

The aid provided to victims of conflict is without doubt important and necessary for them to rebuild their lives. Ultimately though, it is these people themselves who make the journey to a better life.

William Mawhinney

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