Ousted from their homes by violence and conflict, the 25 million people living in limbo within the borders of their own nations remain the toughest assignment for the humanitarian community, a senior United Nations relief official said today.
“This is the most under-addressed humanitarian challenge,” said Dennis McNamara, Special Advisor to the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, referring to internally displaced people (IDP) around the world, including more than 12 million in Africa.
At a press briefing held at UN Headquarters today, he labelled the situation a global tragedy that struck mostly women and children and impacted the “poorest of the poor.” These people frequently have no basic rights or protection and no dedicated UN agency or convention to protect them from assaults, killings, rapes and other traumas.
Mr. McNamara said humanitarian assistance is relatively easy to deliver, but it does not address basic problems that often plague affected countries, including widespread government corruption, prolonged conflicts, arms sales and high unemployment rates among young people.
“Pop concerts are useful and helpful, but they don’t try and address the fundamental issues,” he said, referring to concerts held by rock stars in recent years to raise money for hungry children in Africa. Instead, he urged world leaders and humanitarian officials to adopt a “holistic, comprehensive, long-term approach to break the cycle of conflict and displacement.”
In the absence of a more comprehensive response, this problem “will not go away,” warned Mr. McNamara, who assumed his post as Director of the Internal Displacement Division when it was created on 1 July 2004.
He said the international media often does not cover the sustained conflicts in Africa. The clash in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), for example, produces 38,000 deaths, directly or indirectly, each month, he said. An unprecedented 3.9 million people have died in the conflict. “This tragedy is not getting the attention it deserves,” he added.
In a presentation delivered in Nairobi late last month, Mr. McNamara said the gain achieved by peacekeeping operations are being squandered as international and local governments fail to invest in development programmes that will stabilize a country after a conflict has ended.
Political support, mediation and recovery efforts that help create livelihoods for people are also necessary to rebuild communities torn apart by conflict, he said.