There are 19 countries with internally displaced people in Africa. 17 of these countries are facing internal displacement (IDP) crisis triggered by conflict. Trailing these crises are tensions between international humanitarian partners and national authorities around when IDPs should return or be re-located, including conditions suitable for return.
The number of displaced people due to conflict almost doubled from 2016 to 2017, and 50 percent of the countries affected by new displacements due to conflict in 2017 were from Africa. At the launch of the Internal Monitoring Displacement Centre (IDMC) 2018 report the Director of IDMC Alexandra Bilak had this to say: "With 30.6 million internal displacements in 2017, which is the equivalent of 80,000 people displaced each day, it’s time for an honest conversation, led by affected countries and with support from the international community, on the most effective ways to turn the tide on internal displacement"
Perhaps one way we can have this serious conversation is around how, as humanitarian actors, we priorities linkages to durable solutions like return and re-integration when providing humanitarian assistance to IDPs. According to the 2018 IDMC global internal displacement report, the distribution of internal displacement across the globe in 2017 mirrored the patterns of previous years. `Most of that associated with conflict took place in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.’ Because these IDPs had to flee their place of origin due to conflict, violence and ethnic tensions, humanitarian concerns regarding their safety vis a vis return to place of origin is valid, but we must go beyond simply advocating against returns and re-locations.
Advocating against return without aiding in making conditions suitable for return is not humanitarian enough. This means, in addition to advocating against return for lack of security in place of origin, we advocate for law and order and for security in these places. If people are not able to return because their homes have been destroyed, we raise funds to help them build back their homes and livelihoods.
This was the case in the aftermath of the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007 - 2009. The Japanese Government provided funds for IOM to build homes for communities who lost their homes, properties and were displaced during the crisis. So, while IDPs were in camps and humanitarian assistance was being provided in the camps, partners were also investing in sustainable solutions.
Given the protracted nature of the crisis facing many African countries, a humanitarian response that is not linked to or does not ignite recovery, resilience and ultimately development and economic solvency, perpetuates humanitarian dependency.
When people are displaced, the goal of any Government should be resettlement. No government should be comfortable leaving its citizens in deplorable shelters. As humanitarian actors, just because our mandate is to provide bare minimal lifesaving assistance does not mean we have to leave people dependent on this form of assistance. The least we can do is to refrain from disrupting and or getting in the way of national authorities’ efforts to assist their people to return to a stable life. Just because we are professional humanitarian service providers does not mean that we care about displaced people more than their governments and fellow citizens.
The conclusive statement by the 2018 IDMC report is the way forward. The report says `Countries facing internal displacement must drive policymaking. Over the coming years, countries will have to better account for IDPs and displacement risk and make addressing internal displacement an integral part of development planning and governance at both the local and national level.’ http://www.internal-displacement.org/global-report/grid2018/
The report further rightly notes that to make genuine progress at the national, regional and international levels, there needs to be constructive and open dialogue on internal displacement. `This must be led by countries impacted by the issue, with the support of international partners, and in line with their national priorities and realities.’