There cannot be enough money to provide accommodation for everybody. It becomes expensive and soon, refugee shelter will become unaffordable
By Simon J. Mone
There is talk being hushed to suggest that some South Sudan refugees can voluntarily return home. This is advantageous because it eases basic needs responsibilities on the host. But it is still clear that the displacement of people will not go away soon. The world continues to embroil in one crisis after another, as if to suggest that the Lord is frowning at our greed and poor governance. Look at our neighbours in the north- South Sudan. For six years now, its leaders have not come to a compromise that enables peace to return. Breaching one peace deal after another, has turned into a joke. As the different tribes continue to point guns and against each other.
Over five years ago, when madness broke out there, nobody would have thought that the conflict would have been sustained to this day. And all we continue to see is mass exodus of helpless people that crowd verandas and settlement camps. This has been the case for a long time and will probably be for the foreseeable future. It is a good feeling when refugees find solace in peaceful and friendlier countries such as Uganda. But with continuous arrivals, soon there will be settlement crises. To everything, there has to be a limit. As the humanitarian pocket is not bottomless – even US President Donald Trump knows.
There cannot be enough money to provide accommodation for everybody. It becomes expensive. Soon, refugee shelter will become unaffordable. Even funders of humanitarian projects have problems of their own to mind about. And when we see signs of dwindling pockets, we should start asking ourselves; where does it put the basic needs situation of displaced people?
No answers will mean providing shelter for displaced people in the long-term will be a challenge. And host communities might face some competition for settlement. We need durable a solution to shelter for displaced people. We should let emergency shelters be available to accommodate new arrivals. And let displaced people that have been around for a while, start to think about something long-term. Think out a new shelter programming for displaced people, something that gives a sense of ownership. We can experiment a pilot scheme that offers refugees home-making tools and home-making materials – the ones that refugees find expensive to acquire.
For instance, we can offer incentives such as bags of cement and iron sheets to refugee families that have managed to make 5,000 bricks locally. With this approach, refugees can make use of abundant mud and wattle resources to start up their projects. Give capacity for refugees to build their homes through a community-based/rights-based approach.
The advantage with this approach is in the cost. It is cheaper than having to provide the full shelter for refugees. And many families can be reached with assistance. When refugees start to implement the project by themselves, it enables them learn some skills that they can replicate to the wider section of refugees. Therefore, we need a slightly different approach from what has been. It will greatly improve living conditions of refugees. It is cost-effective, each shelter built under this community-based scheme costs much less than providing shelter entirely by humanitarian funding. It also puts to rest issues of congestion and poor sanitation in settlement camps. Adequate shelter for refugees in camps is a basic human right, each family must have one. Providing adequate and sustainable shelter for each refugee family is going to be a big challenge. And at the moment, it is difficult for the eyes seeing the squalid conditions in which refugees live.
The writer is a civil engineer