Can Aid Switch Gears to Respond to Sudden Forced Displacement? The Case of Haut-Uélé, DRC
How does the aid system respond when insecurity and suddenforced displacement occur in what has long been considered a stable, development context? Can longer-term aid interventions adapt when challenged to “shift gears” to address acute needs resulting from forced displacement? Based on observations from Médecins Sans Frontières projects in Haut-Uélé in northeastern DRC in 2008–2009, this article examines assistance to displaced populations and the residents hosting them in LRA-affected areas—above all, the stakes and dilemmas involved in responding to such a sudden-onset emergency in what international donors and the national government considered an area in development.
Initially, a much-needed response to violence and displacement failed to materialize, with little permanent humanitarian presence on the ground, while development approaches failed to adapt and meet emergency needs. Short-term contingency support was provided through development NGOs, but with limited scope and maintaining cost-recovery schemes for health toward an impoverished population facing an increasingly precarious situation. A long-term development approach was simply unable to respond to the sudden population increase and a fragile health situation.
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