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Refugee Self-Settlement May Provide 'Lasting' Solution To Humanitarian Crises

In this New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog post, journalist and author Tina Rosenberg examines the contrasts between refugee situations in rural camps — such as Dadaab in Kenya, where tens of thousands have sought relief from drought and famine in Somalia — and more urban areas, such as cities in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, where approximately 1.6 million Iraqi refugees are living. “At Dadaab, [refugees] receive food, medical care, basic shelter — the emergency relief they need,” but “[t]he camp lacks the money to provide even subsistence rations” and “the refugees give up their rights to move freely and to work,” she writes. In urban areas, refugees “get help from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with an ATM card that allows them to withdraw money every month. … They buy their own food and rent their own apartments. They use the local schools and health clinics,” Rosenberg says.

This sort of “[s]elf-settlement would almost certainly cost less than camps: help would merely supplement what refugees earn, and there would be no need to feed them or build complex infrastructure,” she continues. Donors would help by providing “counseling, support groups, drop-in centers,” subsidizing schools and health clinics and supporting projects such as microcredit lending that would help refugees and their host nation, Rosenberg writes, concluding that though “[i]t is not easy work … it is at least the sort of help that offers a chance to produce something lasting; merely keeping people barely alive year after year does not” (9/1).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.