Piers Cumberlege invites those concerned to explore the landscape of engagement with displaced people. The refugee simulation seeks to replicate, in even a brief, simple way, some of the complex challenges which make life difficult for refugees, asylum seekers, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and others:
- Dearth of medical care:
- The gender factor:
- Inadequate education:
- Weak infrastructure:
- Lack of resource:
- Right of abode/work:
Expanded detail on the above can be found here.
Following is a series of options in terms of sector and activity. We are in ongoing consultation with colleagues as we build this list into the most practicable possible. As ever, if you have questions unanswered here, and would like to be involved, please email.
If you are working with IT and communication, your company can play a vital role in the lives of those displaced.
A major issue in many camps or other areas of displacement: the Internet. Connectivity can allow:
- Family members to discover the whereabouts of their loved ones
- Relatives and friends to remain in touch even if separated by geo/political borders. This lets them co-journey, encourage, support one another.
- Online education for
- Children, helping them keep up with where they ought to have been had they been able to stay at home
- Adults who need skills training in order to be employable.
- Online employment for some refugees.
- Online banking / purchase.
- Access to social networking sites which allow friendships across the planet, again crossing boundaries otherwise impregnable.
- Make computers, mobile phones or other devices available at affordable prices, or even as a donation, to allow displaced people a way to do the above.
Educational institutions of all kinds can prevent ‘lost generations’: those who, because of other priorities, struggle through years of displacement without any education. More than 50% of refugee children have no education. Once re-settled or even re-patriated, how can they possibly find employment or employ ability?
- Educators’ affiliations can target the need to get teachers into camps, preferably longer term, but, if not, even on a short-term basis if rotating consistently to keep classrooms open.
- Companies providing educational equipment can support provision of much needed aids:
- Training materials/ text books
- Sports and recreational equipment, if donated or provided at affordable rates, give kids the chance to ‘be children’ again in conflict zones which expose them to horrors difficult for them to process and often to play the role of an adult at a young age.
- Translators and/or translation companies have a vital role to play in ensuring education is given in the local language.
- Counsellors can make expertise, whether in written form or in person, available. Traumatised children do not process information in the same way as their counterparts in non-conflict communities. Expertise is needed to train teachers in the cognitive impact of high stress on a child’s ability to learn.
- Provision of safe play spaces where children know, even if life is not safe in their tents or temporary accommodation, they can experience a few hours a day where they will not be at risk.
- Curriculum developers can plan a special role in helping children catch up on education they have missed and assisting them to understand the culture where they now live.
Governments and policy makers have a unique role to play here, supported by data systems specialists.
Many displaced people have been forced to flee without ID papers. Some have come from remote environments where documenting of birth was not readily available. Others simply had no choice but to run. These displaced people end up without any formal identity. The issue is, of course, compounded for children born in displacement. It is crucial that:
- a universally acceptable, trackable system is determined whereby individuals can receive an identity even if, for the present, no passport is yet available.
- inter-governmental bodies find agreement on what constitutes identity, whether for immediate, short term use or longer term.
Companies, educational institutions, NGOs, governmental organisations are needed to see displaced people as employees and invest in their training.
- Students, perfectly able to achieve well in their original setting, see their vocational training paralyzed by conflict. They need ongoing training in their skill set areas. Those trained also need accreditation which is accepted/respected widely, not in a narrow, restricted environment, if they are to go on and be able to play a useful role in years ahead.
- Qualified people, often successful in their locations prior to conflict, need employment. It is all too easy to caricature refugees as people emerging from locations of poverty, and, while that is certainly true of some, and they need our support, it is not true of many. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, teachers and many other professionals are among those forced to flee. They need employment but, again, may need accreditation if locating to a new country.
- Equipment may also be needed and highly effective in empowering those who are seeking to earn and contribute to the local economy, if permitted. From simple items such as sewing machines and basic tools, to computers and sophisticated software, the skills attained and accredited may be unusable without the wherewithal to deploy them.
- Creativity may be needed to employ refugees. Legal help may be required for them to be allowed to work. Employment might be offered online, if country boundaries are proving impassable.
NGOs such as Talent Beyond Boundaries are targeting this issue. You could liaise through one such NGO or, indeed, reach out directly to refugees in your own community, whether local or global.
The lack of legal infrastructure, in the landscape of displacement, is a profound and far-reaching problem. Legal firms could contribute much as individual entities or as part of consortia. Where can legal prowess make a difference?
- Support for smaller NGOs seeking registration. Often, conflict and displacement birth NGOs among communities who feel they cannot stand by and watch the suffering taking place in their location. They need registration to function, however, and the cost of this can be beyond the reach of grassroots groups who are, often, simply concerned citizens eager to organise their resources and help.
- Protection of local NGOs who, in some of today’s environments, are themselves being penalised for helping people who escaping conflict scenarios. The act of rescue is coming under fire making it, in those instances, virtually illegal to help those who are fleeing.
- Pro forma support for refugees seeking employment and needing cover from employers who may, potentially, be opportunistic or words
- Individual support for displaced persons seeking to have their cases given a fair course of justice.
- Human rights support across the landscape of displacement, refugee movement, the seeking of asylum and perils of migration.
Professional therapists, trainers and mental health associations can step into the world of displacement with an invaluable contribution.
Experts say that the mental health of displaced people is the lowest priority in the health range. Entire camps, with thousands of people, exist without a single psychologist on hand to deal with the massive stress and pain these people face. It’s heartbreaking how easily the world can focus on the outer needs of these people without looking at the inside picture.
- The horrors that many have suffered or witnessed stay ‘with’ them long after the events themselves. Seeing beloved ones tortured, violated, murdered in front of them, from babies to spouses to endeared older relatives leave searing memories. So, of course, do those appalling experiences to which they have themselves been exposed. PTSD, panic attacks, night terrors, a ‘muting’ of their natural voice and sheer, unadulterated terror stay with them. How does one handle them?
- The stress continues.
- Where are their families and loved ones? They may not know and may have no way of knowing. Connectivity and IT, as above, can help a lot here, but many live daily with the appalling fear of not knowing whether those they care about are safe, or even alive. That’s a daily toll.
- How do they survive in the immediate? For young, unaccompanied minors, what can they sell? Their bodies? Drugs?
- Are the camps safe? Fighting, ethnic or otherwise, sexual abuse, fires and other challenges can make the current camps, or similar locations, profoundly unsafe, particularly under cover of darkness.
- What will be the future of those who seek safety and/or asylum? Will they receive open arms in a safe place, whether inside or beyond their national boundary? The world is increasingly closing its door to displaced people. They are being stranded in transit between their home country and others’. It’s a No Man’s Land with no defined length of time and no known outcome.
As a result, mental health specialists tell us they are seeing a deterioration in mental health which is unprecedented: a new ‘normal’, if you will, which is destructive beyond measure: suicide among people as young as 8 years old, self-harming among two year olds, depression, despair and sheer desperation are taking hold.
What is needed?
- Mental health practitioners who can help and/or train teams on the ground.
- Help for care-givers dealing with extreme mental health scenarios daily and needing both training and emotional support themselves.
- Psychiatrists with the ability to prescribe medication commensurate with the need.
- Medication itself. The needed psychotropic/other drugs are usually not available in displaced environments. A simple aspirin or band-aid might be typical of the medicine on hand and the sheer scale of mental health treatment needed is a lifetime away from those whose emotional health could be amongst the most fragile on the planet.
If you are part of a pharmaceutical company, a mental association of professionals, an academic orbit specialising in trauma or similar, we would love to hear from you and take the conversation further.
General health care is a massive area of need among displaced people. Clinics in the camps are frequently understaffed, undersupplied and under-supported. What is needed? Help from trained medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals or manufacturers with quality medical equipment, and more.
- It Is heartbreaking to see how little medicine is available in many clinics. Pharmaceutical companies, in consultation with practitioners on the ground, can make suitable medicine available. All medication needs to be compliant with the WHO, in date and entirely suitable. Pharma companies
- Medical personnel. Trained individuals are needed to:
- Run clinics
- Conduct surgery
- Train others
Companies, hospitals and other medical facilities can give, or make available at an affordable cost, the equipment needed to empower local clinics. Medical NGOs can play a strategic role in this, for donors wishing to get behind their efforts to see the level of needed care.
The above have inter-dependencies as personnel cannot offer appropriate care, of course, without needed equipment, medicine and a further medical team.
One of the greatest gifts for a displaced person is the right to work. With it comes dignity, respect, growth, sustainability, peace of mind and family care.
Politicians, policy advisers, diplomats and HR companies can be amongst the best placed to ‘move the dial’ in regard to the right to work for displaced people.
With the best will in the world, provision of skills training, certification, and even equipment provision is not enough if refugees are literally forbidden to work in a host country.
- Jobs / training. As above, jobs and skills training are longed for by many displaced families, either for the breadwinner, the spouse and for young people.
- Product development. Certain kinds of product development can uniquely empower refugees and others in displacement.
- Donated goods/services. If you have appropriate goods, they can be strategically placed to make a difference. The range of goods may vary according to the location and needs of those concerned. If you, as a manufacturer, have goods located anywhere in the world that you would like to offer displaced people, please email us and we will look to see if there is an appropriate match through our Global Hand service.
Engineers, architects, construction companies and more have almost infinite opportunity to help in post conflict zones for the massive reconstruction needed.
The task ahead, in devastated communities all over the world, is almost beyond quantifying. Companies in these and related sectors can not only help reconstruct, but, at the same time, train local people and build capacity as they assist these regions in being restored to life as they formerly knew it.