Urban Displacement

The World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) Human Resources Project (2010) highlights that most occupational therapists live and work in urban areas (see the Google Map). Engaging displaced people might be a matter of walking down the street, or going to the periphery of your city.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) notes that displaced people are increasibgly seeking refuge in urban environments (see the Global Trends 2011 for stats). Challenges of urban displacement are the sprawling and dense nature of these urban environments in the poorest, and least secure areas.

In brief. . .

  • Since the 70's there has been a trend from rural encampment to displacement towards urban areas
  • Displaced and host populations often share acute vulnerability (eg disaster) and chronic vulnerability (eg poverty)
  • Urban displacement is hard to research as people often prefer to be anonymous and invisible
  • States may deny the existence of displaced populations in urban environment
  • Men and even skilled workers struggle to resume livelihoods in urban areas with high levels of underemployment
  • Women who intermarry with the host population may adapt through family roles
  • People may depend on remittances from extended family for survival
  • State and host population may see displaced population as an economic threat and restrict right to work
  • Internally displaced populations may be displaced from urban area to another urban area
  • Displaced people often live in the periphery in urban slums with poor housing, infrascructure, and economic opportunities
  • Urban slums are often affected by violence and lawlessness
  • Young people despair for opportunities for education, work, marraige and ability to provide for their family
  • There are more actors and interests in urban areas demanding partnerships outside humanitarian sector to embed programs
  • Urban displacement can become protracted with faith based organisations strengthening hope even in restricted areas

Good reading

Pantuliano, S., Metcalfe, V., Haysom, S., Davey, E. (2012) Urban vulnerability and displacement: a review of current issues, Disasters, 36, s1- s22. here

Hidden Lives: The Untold Story of Urban Refugees which highlights the stories of people from Malaysia, UK, Thailand, USA, Burundi and more! The practical realities are sobering.


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