Through its coordination at camp level, the Camp Management Agency is responsible for ensuring protective environments for all camp residents, including PWSN. Given the circumstances, any individual in a camp can be vulnerable, at risk and have specific protection needs.

Protection in general, and protection of PWSN in particular, are crosscutting. It must be mainstreamed in all activities by all actors down to the level of having, for example, a special line for persons with physical limitations to access distributions. This chapter reviews some of the potential groups of persons with specific needs in a camp setting and the responsibilities of a Camp Management Agency. Practical arrangements wihtin each sector to ensure that the rights of PWSN are respected and their needs responded to, are mainly dealt in the technical chapters.

The table below introduces examples of population categories and groups that may have specific needs, depending on the context. All categories and some of the groups are addressed in this chapter.

Population Categories Groups with Specific Needs
Boys and girls Unaccompanied and separated children
Children formerly associated with armed forces or groups
Child heads of household
Child spouses
Pregnant girls
Child survivors of gender-based violence (GBV)
Youth Out-of-school and unemployed youth
Youth formerly associated with armed forces or groups
Women Women heads of households, including widows
Women without male support
Women formerly associated with armed forces or groups
Survivors of GBV
Pregnant women and lactating mothers
Older persons Older persons without family or community support and/or with responsibility of children aged under 18
Person affected by sickness, disability or trauma Sick persons without family or community support
Persons with physical disabilities
Persons with mental disabilities
Persons living with, or at risk of, HIV/AIDS
Survivors of torture
Minority groups Ethnic and national minorities
Religious minorities
Linguistic minorities
Nomadic/pastoral groups
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) individuals
Men Disenfranchised youth/men
Male survivors of sexual violence
Single male heads of households


What Is Vulnerability?

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) defines vulnerability as the diminished capacity of an individual or group to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a natural or man-made hazard.

In a camp setting persons may have specific needs due to vulnerability that existed before the crisis, but also due to vulnerability related to changing circumstances caused by the crisis. To be able to protect all PWSN, it is therefore important that the Camp Management Agency ensures mapping of these persons and their vulnerabilities as early as possible in the camp response.


The vulnerability of PWSN may be initiated and/or increased during crises when traditional support systems, like family, friends and neighbours, are disappearing or disturbed, and when PWSN must rely on foreign people for protection. The most sustainable solution might then be to strengthen the capacity of the remaining family and/or network around the person, it these are reliable.

In a context where fear, deprivation and tensions can lead to breakdown of cultural and ethical/social values, life can bring additional risks of neglect, violence and abuse, against which the most vulnerable members of the community must be protected. If the vulnerability of persons belonging to different categories and groups and its consequences are not recognised and addressed, it can have serious, sometimes life-threatening, impacts on their physical and psychological health, and on their well-being and ability to access their basic human rights.

PWSN may not have access to appropriate communication channels or the capacity to recover and make their needs known. Likewise, they may be unable to speak out due to age, language barriers, disability, stigma or fear. Due to their different vulnerabilities and needs they may be more unaware of their rights to assistance and protection, unable to voice a complaint and unaware of the Camp Management Agency’s responsibility towards them.

It is essential that assessments are done to analyse not only the protection risks faced by groups, but also by the individuals within them. It is important to keep in mind that the specific needs of individuals may change over time, both related to the camp life cycle itself and also related to people moving from one life situation to another. For example, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) individual living in a community where accepted may be more vulnerable if separated from the community, and face stigma and discrimination in addition to other problems related to crisis. Similarly, a child or youth in the care of a foster family in the camp may have different needs at the time of return or resettlement.

The Camp Management Agency must ensure that all staff working in camps have the competencies required to work towards the protection and upholding of the rights of all groups and individuals in camps. Special attention is needed towards PWSN as they may be more disempowered than the rest of the camp population due to their vulnerabilities and needs. The camp management staff, as well as staff from all service providers, must be aware of their perceived and potential roles as door-openers to limited goods and resources. They need to know there is a power imbalance between themselves and the camp residents that is even bigger than that between them and PWSN. Therefore, they must always act in ethical and accountable ways towards all. This requires training, awareness-raising and signing and abiding by a code of conduct.

☞ For more information about requirements for camp management staff, see Chapter 2, Roles and Responsibilities.