Fifteen years after the peace treaty of Dayton (DPA), there are more than 113.000 persons still registered as internally displaced (IDPs) in their own country. Some 8.000 still live in collective centres in extreme social vulnerability and non-human living conditions.
A new beginning
Although over 1 million persons have returned to their place of origin, a substantial number of internally displaced persons and returnees remain in a fragile situation, lacking dignified conditions, and require support to obtain a durable solution. Without support by international community, return to homes and durable human living solutions in dignity are not possible.
Hilfswerk Austria International has been offering humanitarian aid in Bosnia since 1992. Since 1996, the aid workers devote their efforts to the most sensitive part of the DPA: The reconstruction according to the criteria of the “minority return”, that is mainly for refugees who lost their homes in the armed conflict from 1992 to 1995 because they were members of the “ethnic minority”. All complex projects are prepared and proposed by HWA team from BiH, and are carried out by BiH companies and suppliers. Strict controls by the HWA monitors, by independents Austrian auditors, and the EU and other partners, guarantee and efficient use of donations.
The affected families are selected according to social criteria and current living conditions. The most difficult destinies are families still living in collective centres (CCs). In many cases the collective centres accommodation provides only the most rudimentary living conditions, with IDP families sharing kitchens and water and sanitation facilities. The majority of IDPs remaining in CCs today are persons with heightened vulnerabilities, including persons who are physically or mentally challenged, the chronically ill, the elderly without any income or family support, and others who cannot return due to acute protection reasons. The provision of durable housing, creation of jobs, support in reviving agriculture, investments in infrastructure, intensive integration of the “stakeholders”, inclusion into society and normal living, and help in everyday problems are characteristic for the work of HWA. At the same time, this approach meets the requirement of sustainability and is based on the “help for self-help” principle. Let’s not close our eyes to the perils of war and consequent traumas!
Aid towards self-sufficiency
Since 1996, Hilfswerk Austria International (HWA) BiH has been very active in the sector of refugee return support through complex integrated projects which comprehend various types of assistance such as: creation of permanent living space through reconstruction of houses, social housing, technical and social infrastructure; local capacity building through establishment and/or support to local NGOs and local authorities; education and training for local authorities – project associates; support in establishment or production improvement to SMEs in order to create new working places; improvements in agriculture sector through provision of grants, support to local co-operatives; psycho-social trainings for parents and teachers to reduce prejudices about inclusion and children with special needs and other activates.
Since the end of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina we have been able to implement 73 projects with the total cost of more than 53 million Euro. We want to “give people a hand” – work together with them so they can rebuild their courage from within themselves and take running of their lives. For in addition to political and economic decisions, the personal state of mind of the people concerned plays a major role. In this context non-profit (humanitarian) organizations must meet the challenge of providing direct help to families regardless of ethnic group or religious belief. “We don’t simply help the people to build a roof over their head”, says Heidi Burkhart, manager of Hilsfwerk Austria International, “We want to build a roof for Europe, under which the children of our continent can grow up in peaceful future.”
Since 1996 HWA aid team in Bosnia and Herzegovina have built:
3.489 homes (for returnees, IDPs, socially vulnerable population and minorities such as Roma)
6 health centres and 2 veterinary stations
2 daily centres for children with special needs
12 schools and kindergartens
5 homes for elderly
2 sports halls
6.744 grants delivered
80 new jobs created
Repaired 60 km of roads and
120 km of electro networks
12 transformer stations installed
20 water supply systems revitalised
15 local NGOs supported