April, 22, 2016. Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq- An interesting finding from the field in Erbil, Iraq: non-food items (NFIs) are not an adapted response tool for refugees and IDPs after several months and years of displacement. While NFI kits are essential in the first stage of displacement, especially when refugees or IDPs arrive in a new camp/town, a few other types of assistance/solutions seem more suitable after months and years of displacement: cash, livelihood assistance and employment.
Distributing cash gives back refugees and IDPs some dignity as they can control how they will use the money, could it be for daily needs or paying rent. While distributing cash could be criticized for creating more dependency on international aid, it could also be an entry point for creating income-generating activities. Last, the cash spent by refugees and IDPs is often immediately injected into the local economy of hosting communities. Governments, foundations and non-profits, such USAIM, the U.S. non-profit partner of IOM, are already funding cash distributions for the most vulnerable refugees and IDPs. On April 27th, 2016, 100 Syrian refugee families of about 5 members each, living in Erbil, will receive cash and will be able to spend money on their priorities, including household items, shelter, clothing, and health care. This cash distribution is funded by USAIM.
Another type of support is livelihood assistance. It enables displaced populations to obtain a sustainable source of income by providing them with the skills, knowledge and capital to effectively run their own business or attain gainful employment.
This assistance could take multiple forms from vocational trainings and in-kind grants to business-support packages. In addition of facilitating a social and economy recovery, livelihood assistance permits a faster re-integration into the job market. The benefits generated by livelihood assistance go beyond the sole beneficiary and their families; the whole community is positively impacted.
Employment is by far the best solution as it will allow the refugees and IDPs to regain full control of their lives by earning a steady income to provide for themselves and their families. International organizations, such as IOM, assist displaced people by providing services such as job placement.
Helping refugees and IDPs to contribute to the socio-economic tissue of hosting communities and countries will not only help their integration but will also help them regain confidence and hope. We should remember that refugees and IDPs often yearn to give back to their hosting communities by serving the social and economic structures.
Regular assessments of the needs of displaced communities as done by IOM Iraq's Displacement Tracking Matrix track the evolution of their needs and thus permit an adapted response. When temporary displacement becomes long-term displacement, international aid can no longer be the key. Other paradigms must be found. Building displaced people's self-reliance becomes primordial and can be possible by developing innovative, sustainable and empowering alternatives.
After years of displacement, refugees and IDPs know better than anyone else what their needs are. Thus, it is essential for governments, donors and organizations to listen to these people. Their feedback is the only way we could make a better difference on their lives but also improve international assistance for long-term displaced communities.