How are the health needs of internally displaced persons adressed by international actors?


  • Myriam Staub
  • Jens Holst
  • Franziska Satzinger



The number of internal displacements has doubled over the last decade, as conflicts and climate related disasters have increasingly triggered movement within countries borders. Due to the lack of a legally binding framework and international agency dedicated for the protection of internally displaced persons (IDPs), the needs of IDPs are underprioritized by international actors. Evidence suggests that IDPs face worse health outcomes than any other crisis-affected population group. This leads to a policy analysis on the involvement of international actors on addressing the health needs of IDPs. The concept of humanitarianism will be utilized as the theoretical foundation and is the underlying motive of humanitarian action worldwide. As an altruistic desire to reduce suffering, humanitarianism aims to provide relief to victims of conflicts or disasters while adhering to the humanitarian principles. Assessing the humanitarian concept helps to conceptualize the role of international actors in the humanitarian assistance of IDPs. For the methodology, a description of the literature search and the selection of certain material has been provided. It also examined why documents by international organizations like the UNHCR, the OCHA, the WHO and the IASC were used for this policy analysis. The first part of the findings identified the legal protection frameworks for IDPs. International law and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement represent the most suitable legal tools for IDPs. Guiding concepts regarding the realization of health rights have also been developed by international organizations and national authorities. The second part of the results concentrated on the humanitarian coordination mechanisms for IDPs. Although the UNHCR does not hold an exclusive mandate for IDPs, the protection and assistance of IDPs relies mainly on the UNHCR. The humanitarian coordination mechanism applicable in internal displacement settings is the IASC Cluster approach. The Cluster approach spreads accountability of UN agencies across various sectors, including shelter, food security or health. Despite individual interventions of NGOs on the health of IDPs, the Health Cluster remains the most suitable tool for coordinating an emergency health response. Health cluster country operations have targeted the health needs of IDPs through provision of essential health care. The country cluster operations have contributed to an effective humanitarian relief coordination for IDPs. Due to the lack of an international legally binding framework, the lack of health funding for IDPs and limited accountabilities for IDPs, the issue of internal displacement will remain. Strengthening humanitarian engagement in all sectors concerning the well-being of IDPs can be achieved through a holistic approach.




How to Cite

Myriam Staub, Jens Holst, & Franziska Satzinger. (2023). How are the health needs of internally displaced persons adressed by international actors?. South Eastern European Journal of Public Health.