Prioritizing Protection and Assistance for Africa’s Internally Displaced Women and Children

May 26, 2004

In Africa, and around the world, the overwhelming majority of internally displaced persons are women and children. Yet, responses to internal displacement regularly overlook or de-prioritize their protection, assistance and reintegration needs; sometimes, they even exacerbate them. If IDP women and children are not being protected and assisted, however, this means that most IDPs’ needs are not being met. Ensuring protection and assistance for internally displaced women and children therefore is not a marginal issue but is central to the effectiveness of any response.

The challenges of doing so can be significant. But allow me today to outline just seven key areas where greater attention could yield important results.

  • Gathering disaggregated data. Statistics and needs assessments must factor in gender and age and in addition must recognize the particular situation and needs of different groups of IDP women and children
  • Priority must be given to ensuring the protection of IDP women and children
  • Schooling for IDP children must be made a priority in emergencies instead of being treated as a secondary need
  • Women must have access to meaningful skills-training and income-generating opportunities
  • Women and children need access to psychosocial help as they have experienced severe trauma
  • Restrictions on women’s ability to own, acquire and manage property must be overcome
  • Women and youth must be given the opportunity to become actively involved in the decisions that affect their lives

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