Friday, September 23, 2011

Accountability for Dignity

Today I was reviewing the guide planning and managing shelters for the disaster survivors in the US. I was very impressed with all the considerations that are taken to meet the immediate needs of all the populations and the structure in doing so. Amongst many excellent insights, the guide also cautions the shelter managers about the sex offenders and other anti-social elements.

This exercise made me remember the IDP camps in Bhuj, Gujarat after the 2001 earthquake and in the southern coast of Sri Lanka after the 2004 Tsunami. In Gujarat, in the GIDC shelters, each family had a little space covered with metal, which would get hot in the summers, very cold in the winters and would get flooded during the rainy seasons. It was one room for the whole family with hardly any privacy for anyone. In Sri Lanka, shelters were made of tarpaulin or wood and like in Bhuj, were not organized enough to meet the specific needs of all.
I wonder how the IDP camp managers in resource poor countries do the screening for sex offenders and attempt to protect the inhabitants against the bad guys, where most of the time, there are no official records of sex offenders. I know the Sphere Project and IASC Guidelines for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support strive to mainstream Protection for survivors as a function in any humanitarian emergencies. As a result, I hope there are monitoring/assessment groups across these sites not only to look for potential risks be it physical, psychological or social in nature.
This monitoring team must include and train inhabitants in the camps/shelters. These teams must have good representation from all the vulnerable groups. It would also require a community-based system for referral and follow up actions in response to relevant observations or notifications. Training for these teams must include (a) awareness about their basic rights including the right to receive assistance with dignity, (b) active listening skills and (b) referral and follow up system.

There must be no excuse for attack on dignity and honor of a human being. More so, in a site which is being supervised with organizations that owe their very existence to the humanity. Just because there is scarcity of resources, respect and security should not become a luxury.


  1. Sounds interesting, might have to take you up on that some other time.

    Visit here for Japan Tsunami

  2. Nice post with good suggestions for training of the monitoring team.I humbly bow before your deep concern to humanity.


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This poem is based on conversations with people during my recent trip to Texas and desk review of what is going on in the US since the Zer...