The Impact of Humanitarian Assistance on Traditional Coping Mechanisms of Refugees in Uganda: A Case Study of Congolese Refugees in Kyangwali Refugees Settlement.
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OPOKA JOHNSON (2007-03-MA-PTR-058) The Impact of Humanitarian Assistance on Traditional Coping Mechanisms of Refugees in Uganda: A Case Study of Congolese Refugees in Kyangwali Refugees Settlement. This thesis, based on extensive literature review and a field trip visit, assesses the impact of humanitarian assistance on the on the socio- cultural (traditional) coping dynamics of the communities it serves or seeks to serve. Using the Congolese refugees in Kyangwali refugees‟ settlement in Hoima district as a case study, it concludes that, although assistance is an important factor, other issues, such as refugees inherent coping mechanisms play a great role in their rehabilitation; the coping mechanisms were identified using capacities and vulnerabilities assessment through a combination of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) research tools. The methods included: observations; community focus group discussions; semi-structured (Key Informant) interviews; the collection of field data by the team, a research manual (questionnaires and focus group discussion guides) was designed. Preliminary training and a pre-test was conducted in Imvepi refugees‟ settlement in Arua district. Although during humanitarian emergencies, assistance provision mostly focuses on life savings, foundations for long term development and rehabilitation of the refugee community is laid by the humanitarian actors. It is in the humanitarian actor‟s perception that the refugees would be able to utilise assistance provided and the available land to be able to strengthen copying mechanisms. Little emphasis is put on the approaches undertaken right from the arrival of the refugees and when Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) finally exit. Most of the humanitarian assistance provided achieves short term goals of saving refugee lives but rather by and large unsustainable. Both UNHCR and partners interviewed admitted that they continue to encounter significant difficulties in achieving sustainable livelihoods. Less emphasis is put on strengthening existing traditional coping mechanisms to sustain refugee livelihoods as they pursue life-saving interventions. While both beneficiaries and NGOs acknowledge that it is useful in saving lives and reducing human suffering among the majority of the beneficiaries. There were concerns about the way in which delivery and distribution of humanitarian assistance was handled, which generated not only inequity and inequality in terms of access to assistance, but also led to negative livelihood outcomes and thus weakening the community safety nets for the persons with special needs. However, beneficiaries echoed that humanitarian assistance has changed the socio-economic dynamics within the households and community. At household level, women are perceived to be given more powers over food and non-food items distributed by the humanitarian actors. This has made some men to become abusive to their families. The extremely vulnerable individuals in the communities are considered a responsibility of the NGOs due to the selective nature of assistance provision, thus affecting the traditional safety nets of care and support in the community. Key Words: Humanitarian Assistance, Traditional Coping Mechanisms, Congolese Refugees, Kyangwali Refugees Settlement.
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