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Building better responses to displacement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by helping host families

Published: 22 September 2008

Despite new peace agreements, continued conflict among and between armed militias and government forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the last year has seen thousands of new internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the east of the country, many of whom have poured into camps seeking shelter and safety. This is a new development in DRC. Unlike Darfur and Uganda, IDPs in DRC have usually stayed with host families, returning intermittently to their homes, rather than fleeing to refugee-like camps.

This study, based on recent interviews and field research in eastern DRC, provides new evidence to support a far higher priority to be given for assistance to hosted IDPs and their host families. If international humanitarian agencies are going to continue to rely on host families as a back-up, ‘out of sight’ way to assist IDPs, they must provide these families with far better support.

At the program level, this study suggests that livelihoods interventions, such as cash transfers, cash for work, vouchers, increasing market access and emergency micro-credit could play an important role in helping host families and IDPs to survive.

At the policy level, Oxfam offers the following recommendations to donors, the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in DRC, OCHA, UN humanitarian agencies, international NGOs, and others:

  1. Develop and agree on a strategy to assist host communities as a vital part of the DRC 2009 Humanitarian Action Plan, and to be built into contingency planning.
  2. Improve monitoring of population flows. Improved response will be impossible without improved information on IDP and host populations.
  3. Clarify criteria for and the process of camp creation.
  4. Intensify efforts to reduce people's expenditure on social services.