IDPs versus refugees: Similar plight, different treatment

By Manola De Vos 01 June 2015

Internally displaced persons flee a campsite in Kibati, North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, following gunfire near the area. How should one understand the disparity of treatment between IDPs and refugees? Photo by: UNHCR

Today, more than 50 million people are estimated to have fled their homes as a result of conflict and persecution. Of these, 38 million are reported to be living in displacement camps within the borders of their own country.

Great strides have been made over the past decade in profiling internally displaced persons and addressing their protection and assistance. Through the creation of the cluster approach — groups of humanitarian organizations with clear responsibilities for coordination in each of the main sectors of humanitarian action — the 2005 process of humanitarian reform has proven to be key in improving the international community’s response to displacement.

Often destitute for the same reasons as refugees, IDPs grapple with many similar problems — including lack of adequate shelter, food, water, sanitation and health care. However, they do not always enjoy commensurate assistance and protection.

In Iraq, for instance, the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement and the International Rescue Committee found that Syrian refugee camps are “some of the better refugee camps in the world.” Camps dedicated to displaced Iraqis, on the other hand, are “among the worst.”

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About the author

Devos manola
Manola De Vos

Manola De Vos is a development analyst for Devex. Based in Manila, she contributes to the Development Insider and Money Matters newsletters. Prior to joining Devex, Manola worked in conflict analysis and political affairs for the United Nations, International Crisis Group and the European Union.


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