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South Sudan: Creating a Data Driven Response to Remote Areas in Unity State

Numerous regions in South Sudan are difficult to access due to a variety of factors, including conflict, poor roads and limited phone networks, making it unclear and difficult to identify what the most pressing needs are. During the first week of May, REACH, in cooperation with numerous NGOs and UN agencies, conducted a needs assessment of the population in Kaljaak –  a remote village about an hour from Bentiu, the capital of Unity State. This was the first time humanitarian actors accessed this area since the beginning of the conflict in December 2013. Kaljaak is exemplary of numerous difficult to access areas of South Sudan, where humanitarian actors rely on information based on assumptions and “rumors” rather that direct observation and data collection.

Many IDPs living in South Sudan’s formal displacement sites, including Bentiu PoC, regularly commute to their former communities and areas of origin. To better understand the situation and in an effort to systematize the flow of information into usable data that other humanitarians can act on, REACH started collecting information by using this regular flow of movement and information between Bentiu and other parts of Unity State. Working with community leaders in the PoC, REACH mapped out all of the known communities in Unity State, and then built a network of Key Informants (KIs) who receive regular information from these communities.

Kaljaak is thereby only a first example of data REACH will be collecting moving forward on difficult to access areas in Unity State and beyond. REACH found that the population in this area had limited access to health care, clean water, and sufficient food. Additionally, most of their possessions, including cattle, which is the foundation of rural South Sudan’s rural economy, were either stolen or destroyed due to conflict.

By harnessing the regular flow of information between Bentiu and Unity State’s hinterlands, REACH is providing key information to humanitarian actors for advocacy and programming purposes, and ensuring the response is based on a systematized evidence driven approach rather than on assumptions of needs and context in difficult to access areas. To read REACH’s Situation Overview of Unity State, click here.

Image: Unity State, South Sudan

Iraq: Education Assessment of IDPs (non-camp) and Host Communities in Dahuk Governorate, Kurdistan Region of Iraq

The escalation of violent conflict between Armed Groups and the Iraqi government has seen an estimated 3.2 million Iraqis internally displaced as of April 2016. This large scale internal displacement started in Anbar governorate in early 2014 and escalated in June 2014, spreading across much of northern and central Iraq.

Among all governorates in Iraq, Dahuk Governorate hosts the third largest proportion of all IDPs. Half of the total population is under the age of 18, while 60% of the total IDP population resides outside camps. As such, the education system in Dahuk has been struggling to absorb the additional caseload of IDP children, many of whom were previously taught in a different curriculum and/or language.

In this context, REACH, in collaboration with UNICEF, conducted a Baseline Assessment of Access to Education among Internally Displaced Persons in the Dahuk Governorate of Iraq. This assessment aimed to improve the efficiency of humanitarian cash assistance by implementing partners for increased  access to education in the target areas. This was done by ascertaining baseline location-specific information on available facilities and caseloads- The assessment also  identifed household-level barriers to education access in three districts in Dahuk governorate – Dahuk, Summel and Zakho.

Through the assessment REACH found that attendance rates amongst IDP children across the region were 34% lower than those for host community children – overall, 92% of school aged host community children are attending school, compared to 58% of displaced children. Low attendance rates of IDP children is related to both the financial demand that education-related costs place on households and the inability of schools to absorb more students and provide adequate services. REACH also found that education-related costs were a key barrier to education access amongst IDP populations, in part due to limited provision of services,  including school transport and supplies,  but also largely as a result of poor access to livelihoods. In addition, the existing school system is primarily unable to absorb more students due to a shortage of teachers and the limited number of shifts per school.

The findings of this assessment were presented and shared with the Dahuk Education Cluster and the Department of Education for Dahuk and Ninewa. As such, the assessment provides a quantitative and qualitative evidence base for planning, sector prioritization and target group identification by humanitarian actors and stakeholders, in particular to improve education attendance rates and access to education services amongst IDP populations.

To read the full report, click here.

Jordan: Mass Communications Assessment Tests the Connection in Azraq Camp

Efficient distribution of information to beneficiaries is a critical part of effective aid provision. This is clear in Azraq refugee camp, where humanitarian organisations communicate regularly with the 36,225 Syrians currently residing there. In order to better understand and improve communication methods in the camp, REACH partnered with UNHCR to conduct the first Azraq Mass Communications Assessment last year. The assessment identified the most frequently used information sources as well as barriers to communication and levels of access to media. 

Findings make it clear that Azraq residents are staying connected and mobile phones are playing a critical role. 78% of respondents reported access to a smart phone, and phones are the primary means through which internet is accessed from home. Accordingly, most camp residents can receive information through SMS text messages – and they do; texts (24%), followed by leaflets (23%) and posters (8%), is the top way in which camp information is formally disseminated.

Refugees in Azraq are not only using phones to keep track of camp affairs. Access to the media is similarly crucial to maintain communication with friends and family, stay informed of developments in Syria, and monitor changes to resettlement policies. Social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp provide the most frequently used media source in Azraq camp, with 45% of respondents citing their use. 

Of course a phone doesn’t achieve much without a charged battery. The current absence of electricity in households therefore creates a prominent barrier, contributing to a perceived inadequacy of media access. Lack of electricity was cited as the top reason for that inadequacy (96%), followed by no financial means to purchase internet technology (70%) and limited internet access (35%). REACH and UNHCR proposed several key recommendations meant to mitigate these challenges, including the installation of Wi-Fi hotspots in central locations and expanded access to charging stations until an electricity network is implemented.

As Azraq camp continues to grow and evolve, the Mass Communications Assessment will inform key upgrades to existing technology, guide organisations seeking to convey information in an efficient manner, and ultimately enhance communication within, to, and from the camp.

REACH and UNHCR conducted a participatory mapping exercise during focus group discussions to identify the most frequently suggested locations for Wi-Fi hotspots in Azraq camp. To read the full report click here

Image: Map of preferred wi-fi hotspot locations

REACH: European Migration Crisis, March Update

The Western Balkans ‘migration corridor’ has been officially closed since 20 March following the implementation of the EU-Turkey Plan, leaving over 50,000 migrants reported along the migration route in Greece, FYROM, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Hungary, unable to continue their journey towards Western Europe and unsure of the legal pathways available to them.

To shed light on the situation of those stranded and understand the implications of the EU-Turkey Plan, REACH’s latest monthly situation overview focused on examining the intentions, reactions and vulnerabilities of these migrants in relation to the border closures. REACH additionally collected data from the countries of origin (Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) to uncover motivations leading people to leave their countries of origin and the likelihood of continued new arrivals.

REACH found that despite the official border closures along the Western Balkans migration corridor – people have continued to travel using irregular means. Since the cut off, new arrivals have been recorded in Austria (1,396), Hungary (1,474), Serbia (224), Bulgaria (28), and Slovenia (16) – REACH estimates that actual numbers are likely to be much higher. Additionally, new routes have been reported both within Europe and directly from areas of origin.

The absence of safe and legal pathways for onward movement had led increasing numbers of people to resort to irregular means – including families and young children. Consequently, these people become increasingly “invisible” and face risks of injury and exposure to violence and abuse from criminal gangs, smugglers and border guards.

In terms of origins of migrants in the Western Balkans, Syrians continue to constitute the largest proportion of Mediterranean sea arrivals, followed by Afghans and Iraqis. REACH found that the month of March saw a particular spike in arrivals from Aleppo Governorate, which accounted for 74% of all Syrian arrivals. This is most likely related to the intensification of conflict in early February that caused the displacement of an estimated 70,000 people from Eastern Aleppo City and Northern Aleppo Governorate.

Despite awareness of these new restrictions, through information collected in areas of origin, REACH found that large numbers of people are still prepared to leave for Europe for a variety of reasons, including active armed conflict, violence and insecurity and a lack of access to income and basic services, caused by years of instability.

To read REACH’s March Situation Overview, which also offers a retrospective look into the changing profiles and push and pull factors of arrivals in the previous months, click here.

Image: Location of transit sites and stranded populations in FYROM and Serbia

Syria: REACH’s Rapid Assessment of Displacement and Needs in Southwest Dar’a Governorate

Since March 21st, conflict in southwest Dar’a governorate has intensified, following a period of post-ceasefire relative calm. REACH conducted a rapid assessment to identify patterns of displacement caused by the recent conflict, and detail the humanitarian needs of both recently displaced people and people who remain in conflict affected communities.

Conflict affected areas include Tassil, Edwan, Sahm el Golan, Jlein, Msakin Jlein, Sheikh Saed and Hit (see map). People have fled from these locations in two primary streams: northwards to Nawa, and southwards to communities along the southern Jordanian border. The recently displaced in Nawa are primarily staying in existing shelters within the community, whereas near the border around Zayzun, Tal Shihab and Mzeireb people are staying in open spaces, tents and cars. These people are particularly vulnerable due to a lack of services, as well as limited access to food and water. Future movement is ultimately dependent on the evolving conflict, with many expected to return to Hit, Jlein, Msakin Jlein and Edwan if the violence subsides.

Through this rapid assessment, REACH found that in the immediate term, safety/security and emergency shelter relief, to the recently displaced, should be considered a priority, in particular tents for those who have settled in the countryside and safe spaces for those within villages and towns. In both communities receiving IDPs and communities affected by conflict, some schools have stopped operating in the past two weeks in order to house people; shelter is therefore also a priority in communities which have seen outward movement due to conflict. Further, prices of food and fuel in both sets of communities have increased over the past two weeks, and food assistance was the third most commonly reported priority need.

For more information on the situation in Dar’a governorate, read REACH’s full report: Displacement and Needs in Southwest Dar’a, Syria.

Image: REACH map of communities reporting outgoing or incoming displacement, March 2016

Central African Republic: REACH support to the Rapid Response Mechanism 2015 overview

Since the beginning of 2015, REACH has been supporting the coordination of the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) in the Central African Republic (CAR), under the lead of UNICEF.

The main objectives of this mechanism is to ensure humanitarian watch through rapid sectoral and multi-sectoral assessments, in areas of displacement and return, as well as the dissemination of these assessments at coordination and humanitarian community levels; to contribute to the improvement of the capacity of the affected population to carry out essential daily activities for their survival and dignity; and to ensure access to drinking water and a healthy environment for vulnerable populations affected by shocks through water emergency, hygiene and sanitation.

In this context, REACH has been supporting the RRM to produce bi-monthly reports visualizing and consolidating data from 5 partners, ACF, ACTED, DRC, PU-AMI and SI, with the aim of facilitating humanitarian coordination and aid delivery. To mark the end of the year, REACH released, in the framework of the RRM, an annual report for 2015 to track changes over the year and consolidated the snapshots produced through the bi-monthly reports. This annual report showed that in 2015, the RRM conducted 95 exploratory missions, 93 multi-sectoral assessments, 48 NFI distributions and 32 WASH Interventions. In terms of NFI, the 48 interventions conducted were recorded to have helped 161 484 people. For WASH, the 32 interventions were recorded to have helped a total of 68 652 people.

RRM partners have also been collecting data on post-distribution monitoring to evaluate the satisfaction of quality, quantity, and usefulness of items distribute, as well as the timeliness of distribution. Overall, the RRM performance has been satisfactory in addressing the needs of over 160,000 people across most of CAR.

To read the full annual report, click here.

Image: Map indicating number of NFI beneficiaries reached by status

Syria: REACH Humanitarian Situation Overview

Since the outbreak of conflict in 2011, Syria has become the site of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. The dynamic and multi-faceted nature of the Syrian crisis has posed significant challenges for humanitarian information management. Accessibility and security issues within Syria have impeded systematic data collection efforts, limiting the effectiveness of humanitarian planning and programme implementation.

To address these limitations and shed light on the current situation inside Syria, through its Humanitarian Situation Overview of Syria (HSOS) programme and in close partnership with OCHA, REACH supports humanitarian planning by providing monthly multisectorial updates from within Syria at governorate, sub district and community level. The data collection is conducted through questionnaires distributed to participants – Syrian refugees residing in neighbouring countries – at the beginning of every month, which they complete over the course of two to three weeks, by contacting their key informants via telephone to gather information about their village/neighbourhood of origin. Through this process REACH is able to gather detailed information about Shelter, Displacement, Livelihoods, Non Food Items (NFIs), Health, Food Security, WASH and Education, including in hard to reach areas across Syria. The latest outputs provide an overview of the humanitarian situation as of February 2016 in the governorates of Quneitra, Al Hasakeh and Dar’a.

To compliment these monthly assessments, in February, following complex displacement of people around Dar’a governorate, REACH conducted a series of rapid assessments which aimed to monitor the situation and assess humanitarian needs. These rapid assessment are there to provide an update on information presented in the monthly reports mentioned above, and are available here: Dar’a displacement, 18th February 2016, Displacement to Quneitra, 26th February 2016,  Dar’a displacement, 3rd March 2016.

REACH will continue to publish products on the humanitarian situation in Syria on a monthly basis, with the aim of providing evidence for aid actors in Syria, such as OCHA, UN Agencies, INGOs, the Whole of Syria Clusters and other humanitarian partners in Syria.

Image: Reported displacement routes and IDP caseload in assessed communities

Chad: REACH’s Initial Multisectorial Assessment

Since 2014, violence in parts of north-eastern Nigeria have gradually extended to Chad. Increased attacks by armed groups on civilian populations in 2015 triggered large internal displacements in Chad, as well as the return of Chadians living in Nigeria. Following this increased insecurity, the state of Chad declared a state of emergency around the area of Lake Chad.

To address this displacement crisis, aid actors such as UN agencies and international and local NGOs have been delivering humanitarian aid over the past years, but face serious security risks and difficulties in accessing affected populations. Limited access to affected populations also hinders the capacity of humanitarian actors to gather a comprehensive understanding of the priority needs of affected populations. In order to fill the identified information gaps, REACH conducted an initial assessment aiming to provide accurate and regularly updated information to humanitarian stakeholders.

Through this assessment, REACH found that internal displacements were causes by a multiplicity of factors: on top of the increase in violence since January 2015, also other factors have been identified as reasons for displacement, such as a decrease in food security. Prior to the crisis, the region was already subject to severe food security problems. Following the implementation of an emergency state, the economy of the region faced additional strain resulting in the decreasing of personal production and negatively affecting markets. REACH suggests that a market analysis and an investigation into ways of better revitalizing the market will allow for better access to food and minimize displacement triggered by food insecurity. Additionally REACH advises that food distribution should be better distributed to avoid potential tensions between host and internally displaced communities. Similarly, access to basic services was already an issue before the crisis and remains a severe problem today. However, the most urgent area of intervention identified by REACH is access to water and sanitation as latrines were found to be practically absent in the area.

Through this assessment, REACH is providing essential information on the needs of affected populations in order to better inform the humanitarian community in their deliverance of aid. To read the full assessment click here.

Image: Couverture du Lac Tchad, mars 2015 © ACTED