Disability in Refugee Settlements

Title Disability and Humanitarian Assistance – Negotiating Aid along Vulnerability Categories in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement
Researcher Dr.des. Maria-Theres Schuler

People with disabilities living in the refugee settlement Kyangwali in Uganda are considered among the most vulnerable by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and other humanitarian actors. In order to allocate scarce resources in the best possible and just way, humanitarian agencies apply a categorization system based on the concept of ‘vulnerability’. The rationale behind this system is anchored in Western ideas of distribution and personhood, revealing ideals of independence and self-reliance. In many African societies, however, distribution is based in hierarchical relations of interdependence.

This dissertation project looks at how aid is conceptualized and realized, but also how it is integrated in people’s everyday lives and relationships. The categories are not merely used as a bureaucratic tool by the agencies, but they are appropriated by people with disabilities to negotiate support. It is the aim of this project to analyse, how people with disabilities secure support, make claims and maintain a sense of belonging in a socio-economic and institutional context that is shaped by different logics of distribution. By carefully delineating how aid distribution works through claims and complaints within a complex set of interdependent relations, this study hopes to make a contribution towards a better understanding between donors and beneficiaries by increasing awareness about different politics of distribution and ways of navigating through them.

Supervision Prof. Dr. Mareile Flitsch, University of Zurich
Funding source(s) SNF r4d programme (Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development), North-South Cooperation at the University of Zurich
In collaboration with Makerere University
Duration of Project Feb 2014 to Jan 2017
Key words disability, humanitarian assistance, vulnerability, categorization system, aid distribution, refugee settlement, UNHCR, Uganda