Complex/manmade hazards: displaced populations

A sudden impact such as a natural disaster or conflict triggers the displacement of populations. We supply immediate short-term relief by providing safe water and basic sanitation; emergency medical care A sudden impact such as a natural disaster or conflict triggers the displacement of populations.

We supply immediate short-term relief by providing safe water and basic sanitation; emergency medical care and basic health services; temporary shelter; distribution of food and other urgently needed items.

Definition and characteristics

Displaced populations leave their homes in groups, usually due to a sudden impact, such as an earthquake or a flood, threat or conflict. There is usually an intention to return home.

Migration and displacement are interlinked, but must be distinguished. Displaced populations – either across borders such as refugee influxes, or within a country because of disasters or armed conflict – usually need relief operations combined with efforts aiming at collective and lasting solutions. Migration on the other hand usually involves more individual social assistance, legal protection and personal support.

The responsibility for refugees and all displaced populations primarily rests with the host government. It is the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  to protect and assist refugees. The World Food Programme has a mandate to provide emergency food relief, although it may require assistance with supplies and distribution.

Red Cross Red Crescent operations respond to displaced populations who are vulnerable or in need, providing some or all of the following:

• material and social assistance
• protection against abuse, exploitation and the denial of rights
• advocacy for the rights of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs)

The needs of the host population are also taken into account.

In general, the immediate Red Cross Red Crescent response to a sudden population movement prioritizes:

  • safe water and basic sanitation
  • emergency medical care and basic health services
  • temporary shelter
  • distribution of food and other urgently needed items

Displacement is always traumatic and the IFRC aims to provide psychological support to displaced persons.

The displacement of populations often leads people to move further and to become migrants. 

Documents available:

Related useful links:

International Federation (IFRC)

United Nations (UN)

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

Related Red Cross / Red Crescent operations:

  • Chad operation (2003)
  • Iraq humanitarian crisis (2003)
  • Humanitarian crisis in the Middle East (2006)

    The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian organization, with 189 member National Societies. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, our work is guided by seven fundamental principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. About this site & copyright