“I want to be a doctor when I grow up. I want to help people like the doctor at the hospital who helped my mother” said the little eight-year old girl, full of confidence. She was one of about 50 children attending a primary school in Tahtay Adiabo Woreda in Tigray. The little girl was talking to a World Bank team visiting the area and the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP).
Do good intentions matter if they end up contributing to harm?
In 15 years of working in international development, I have asked myself this question many times, and the answer is always complicated. I learned working on the Uganda Development Responses to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) that even the most straightforward interventions – building a school, for example – can contribute to unintended consequences if they are not well thought-through. As Dr. Robert Limlim, DRDIP’s director, put it: “You build a school and it does not cause harm, but this school is built under social contradictions that impede equal access to education for boys and girls. If we want to transform social dynamics, doing good is not enough, we need to systematically address Gender Based Violence (GBV) in development responses to forced displacement.”
For several decades now, Uganda has been generously hosting refugees and asylum seekers from the conflict-affected countries in its neighborhood, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi. Since achieving its independence in 1962, the country has been hosting an average of approximately 161,000 refugees per year; and the numbers crossed 550,000 in August 2016. In three weeks since the latest fighting in South Sudan broke out on 8 July, nearly 37,491 people were forced to flee to Uganda, more than in the first six months of 2016, according to UNHCR.