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Call for papers - special issue of Disasters journal on 'Humanitarian action in urban areas'


Written by Victoria Metcalfe-Hough


In the past few years there has been rapid growth in the awareness that humanitarian crises are increasingly located in urban areas, where they are often critically unaddressed. While populations have been rapidly urbanising for decades, humanitarian assistance programmes have largely failed to keep pace with these changing demographics. Assistance and prevention programmes remain predominantly geared towards rural populations. 

A large proportion of urbanisation, particularly in developing countries, has not been planned for or met with the appropriate levels of investment in infrastructure by state governments. Consequently, almost one billion people live in areas characterised by high vulnerability and poverty. When natural disasters have struck – such as the earthquake which decimated Port au Prince – local populations, and the national governments and humanitarian agencies mandated to assist them, have been ill-equipped to deal with these crises. Additionally, much of the urbanisation that has taken place in the world's least developed regions has been driven by conflict, swelling already under serviced urban populations in cities like Kabul, Kinshasa, Khartoum and Juba with displaced populations. Urban conflict itself, already claiming significant civilian casualties in Mogadishu, may become the predominant arena of warfare in this century.

Adapting operations and policies to urban areas is high priority in the humanitarian sector. To address urban conditions, agencies have grappled with inner city programmes and researchers have adopted new methodologies. This special issue of Disasters will be devoted to publishing the knowledge that has been gained.

We invite policy-makers, academics and practitioners to share their experiences and lessons learnt regarding responding to displaced populations living in urban areas, and providing assistance during natural or conflict induced disasters.

Submissions would be subject to peer-review before being published (possibly in revised form) in the Special Issue.

We welcome submissions of abstracts by 4 April 2011, sent to [email protected]. The deadline for full articles is 27 June 2011 (max. 8,000 words). Given space limitations in the Special Issue, we reserve the right to make a selection of the most interesting submissions. To request further information, please use the email above.

Sara Pantuliano and Vicki Metcalfe