Can Aid Switch Gears to Respond to Sudden Forced Displacement? The Case of Haut-Uélé, DRC

Katharine Derderian, Liesbeth Schockaert


How does the aid system respond when insecurity and sudden
forced 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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