UNHCR Project Increases Quality and Effectiveness of Local Assistance to Returnees and IDPs

Ongoing UNHCR project in BiH designed to strengthen municipal capacities for management of data on the needs of the internally displaced and returnees significantly increased quality and effectiveness of assistance.

In April 2017, UNHCR Representation in Bosnia and Herzegovina initiated a BAM 2.5 million project to enhance sustainability of the (internally) displaced people (IDPs) and returnees and to support management of data about this population data management in six municipalities - Bihać, Novi Grad, Kotor Varoš, Lukavac, Doboj and Čapljina.

The six municipalities were selected following an extensive profiling assessment in nearly 40 BiH communities that was carried out in 2016 by UNHCR in partnership with the “Union for Sustainable Return and Integration” (UZOPI).

In cooperation with Hilsfwerk Austria International (HWI) for BiH, UNHCR assisted in the establishment of municipal commissions tasked to review available data on the IDPs and returnees and to initiate grass-roots assessment of the needs of prioritised vulnerable beneficiaries.

During the summer months, six teams composed of the representatives of the municipalities, UNHCR and HWI visited several hundred vulnerable displaced and returnee households to assess the most efficient and sustainable forms of individualized assistance for economic improvement and livelihood.

Since the start of the project in April, 209 returnee and IDP families in Bihać, Kotor Varoš, Novi Grad, Doboj and Lukavac have received substantial grants through agricultural equipment, trade tools and livestock. It is expected that by the end of the year further 60 families in Doboj and Čapljina municipalities will be assisted. Most recently, assistance grants were delivered to 85 returnee and IDP families in Kotor Varoš and Novi Grad on 3 and 4 October.

In addition, 60 vulnerable returnee and IDP households in additional 17 BiH municipalities will be provided with assistance for economic sustainability, based on the previously conducted individual assessment.

On the occasion of a grant delivery in Bihać in September, UNHCR Regional Representative for South-Eastern Europe and Representative in BiH, Anne-Christine Eriksson reiterated the UN Refugee Agency’s continuous commitment to advocate with the donor community for assistance to those BiH municipalities that have prioritized assistance based on genuine needs and which have clear quantitative and qualitative information about the remaining needs of IDPs and returnees.

“In order to justify international assistance and trigger available support mechanisms, including from the EU, it is paramount that BiH authorities at all levels invest in quality and timely data management, as well as targeted assessments, and to adopt action plans that reflect actual needs”, added Eriksson.

In order to increase the capacities of the target municipalities in data management, UNHCR organized in April in Neum a training for municipal staff aimed to increase their knowledge transfer and project preparation skills. In addition, advanced IT skills and information management and data analysis training for municipal staff is planned for November and December 2017. To facilitate gathering and management of data on the displaced and returnee population, UNHCR will donate IT equipment to the six project municipalities, as well as to additional 10 BiH municipalities, in which a EU-UNHCR cofounded project “Support to Durable Solutions - Implementation of Annex VII Dayton Agreement” had been successfully implemented between 2014-2016.