Urban Refugees – Innovative Responses for an Unprecedented Situation

The protracted refugee crisis in Syria continues to pose a unique challenge for implementing partners (IPs) of humanitarian assistance and development work, and is changing the conversation around the prevalent approach.

With the Syrian crisis leading to the highest level of refugee population displacement since World War II, host countries are struggling to provide for refugees’ basic needs, and standard humanitarian approaches used successfully in other situations are not always applicable. The article “Responding to the Syrian crisis in Lebanon” illustrates how IPs and donors must adapt their strategies to effectively address this unique crisis, as it proves that innovative and critical thinking – rather than any standardized approach – is the key to carrying out successful humanitarian work.

In Lebanon, where 1.2 million Syrian refugees have migrated, the unique nature of this crisis is especially clear. Lebanon, unlike many other areas, is 80% urban, while most refugee camp settings are rural. In this context, traditional methods of providing assistance simply create more problems. There isn’t enough space for tents or temporary latrines, and mounting tensions between the refugee population and host communities run high as assistance starts to create inequities, and competition for work opportunities and affordable living spaces steepens.

This paper, produced by the Urban Crises Learning Fund, aims to deepen the understanding of how the humanitarian sector can operate more effectively in urban contexts, like Lebanon. Click here to read more.

In the context of providing assistance to urban areas, what’s innovative is not necessarily a technology or a data-driven strategy, but a re-alignment of thinking among IPs and donors toward collaborative and customizable approaches, which are needed with every intervention. The individuality of programmatic needs and concerns varies for each context of humanitarian assistance, which is one of the reasons why Blumont seeks out locally-driven solutions. When people are empowered and their voices are heard early on, many pitfalls of the standard approach can be avoided, as the method can adjust to meet the needs of the community. The ability of the humanitarian sector to work closely in partnership with communities and remain adaptive and responsive to their needs will be more innovative than any single, technological fix can ever be.

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