Refugees and IDPs: Uprooted and Struggling to Survive

In countries around the world, literally millions of people have been uprooted by war, persecution, or natural disaster. A large portion of them are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), meaning that while they have been forced or have chosen under duress to leave their homes, they have remained within their homeland, as opposed to refugees, who have crossed an international border in pursuit of safety.

Internally Displaced Peoples

In either case and for whatever reason, the act of leaving home is an agonizing one. Aside from the daily challenges of finding adequate shelter, food, water, and medical care, IDPs (most of whom are women and children) are at the highest risk of being trapped in conflict zones and, quite literally, “caught in the crossfire.” They are also more likely to go unnoticed by aid agencies if they reside in host families or communities, which endure the strain of stretched resources.


For refugees, a terrible irony is that flight from violence and human rights violations only renders them even more susceptible to those things: Boys might be kidnapped for service in military groups, females of all ages are at risk of sexual assault, and traveling with one’s cherished valuables or heirlooms brings the additional threat of robbery.

Where is My Home?

Regardless of their status, there is still a general public misconception that all so affected will eventually return home. Certainly most hope to do so, and even leave with that in mind. But the end of a war doesn’t ensure a neat resolution for repatriated families if their farms contain land mines. The retreat of a tsunami still leaves leveled villages in its wake, and repressive government regimes under which citizens may face execution for reasons ranging from their sexual orientation to their participation in political protests, may endure for decades.

Refugee woman and child hanging laundry

Current Refugees and IDPs

Today the world’s eyes are largely focused on the fallout from the civil war that began in Syria four years ago. Displaced residents struggling to survive in border countries Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel and Iraq frequently make do in provisional camp shelters or abandoned buildings, even old chicken coops.

Malnutrition and diseases such as cholera are an ever-present threat, and winter weather conditions only add to the misery. Young children are confused and scared by the loss of their homes, family members and friends, while their older siblings are forced to shoulder adult responsibilities they seek work to help support their families. Education is delayed or disrupted by missed registration deadlines, relocations, and language barriers.

For many wives, the uncertainty of starting over in a new land is complicated by the need to act as head of household in place of husbands killed or taken prisoner in the conflict, or who were forced to stay behind for other reasons. Their increased responsibilities and unfamiliar surroundings tend to leave them isolated and confined largely to home.

The Yazidis Singled Out

Yet another side to what is being called the worst humanitarian crisis of the modern world is found in the suffering of the Yazidi, an ethnic and religious minority primarily concentrated in northern Iraq. Persecuted for centuries, their ancient faith, which contains elements of Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism, was again the source of recent attacks on their people.

An attack last summer led not only to the internal displacement of thousands of Yazidis, but the execution of many men and the abduction of women and girls as slaves. Still others who fled to villages and camps in Turkey were liable to swindling by human traffickers promising to smuggle them into Europe.

Yazidi mother and five children

What’s The Solution?

For all of these, the need is as staggering as it is seemingly endless. An ultimate solution, which aid groups say must be a political one, is still not in sight. Yet with your generous partnership, GHNI is making a difference every day, not merely through practical assistance such as food and medical kits, but by providing a listening ear…and hope.

Join us as we continue to bring help and hope by adopting a refugee family from the hundreds who have expressed a desire to work with our Transformational Community Development (TCD) program. Because, even after that long-desired ultimate resolution finally arrives, much work will still lie ahead for these families.

Thank you!