Community resilience or shared destitution? Refugees' internal assistance in a deteriorating economic environment
For refugee communities in the global South, mutual assistance plays a vital role in their economic survival during exile. While the practice of refugees' informal support tends to be perceived as a positive symptom of their communal solidarity, the important question arises whether such a view still holds legitimacy even in the severe scarcity of available resources within their communities. In the Buduburam refugee settlement in Ghana, the transfer and exchange of resources between different households were essential for the survival of many poor refugee families in the face of decreasing donor support. In particular, there was a strong moral responsibility among the inhabitants for assisting destitute fellow refugees. Although their mutual support networks give the impression of unity within this refugee population, the practice of assisting others was not always carried out in harmonious ways. Especially so when someone had inadequate resources, the obligation to help others generated significant stress in caregivers and often even engendered negative feelings against recipients of internal help. By means of in-depth case studies, the article will delve into the social dynamics hidden in the mutual sharing arrangements in this refugee community and will particularly elucidate the emotional conflicts in internal sponsors.