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Syria: REACH rapid assessment in Hasakeh highlights displacement trends and priority needs

On 18th August, airstrikes on Hasakeh city began for the first time since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, alongside increased clashes inside the city. Although airstrikes subsided after three days, clashes continued, triggering mass displacement of an estimated 70,000 people.

On 22-23 August, REACH teams have conducted a rapid assessment in locations outside of Hasakeh sub-district which have experienced an influx of IDPs, to provide timely information on displacement patterns and profiles, humanitarian assistance, as well as priority needs overview. Information presented was collected by REACH staff in Syria through qualitative interviews with 61 Key Informants (KIs) residing in affected areas in the governorate.

While the common IDP profile type is married couple with children, an estimated 50% of recent IDPs are children. Initial estimates suggest that whilst around 40,000 are displaced within Hasakeh sub-district, around 25-30,000 have been displaced to elsewhere in the governorate along three primary routes: northwest to Tal Tamer and Ras al Ain, north to Darbasiyah and Amuda, and northeast to Tal Brak and Qamishli. There are also reports of small numbers of people heading east to Hole and further northeast to Malikeyyeh.

Push factors primarily include escalation of conflict and the deteriorating security situation in Hasakeh city – specifically due to fear of shelling – with reduced access to food reported as a secondary reason. Pull factors for IDPs to displacement areas are primarily access to shelter and the presence of relatives and friends, security, and access to food. At the time of the assessment, humanitarian aid had not reportedly been received by IDPs staying with family and friends in the host communities. However, there has been some assistance for IDPs residing in collective shelters in some northern and northeastern communities, from local authorities, as well as local and international NGOs.

The current displacement is perceived as a short term displacement by affected populations, Within this context, their reported priority needs are access to food and NFIs, especially in the case of IDPs residing in collective shelters, access to healthcare and shelter; and Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), with the most pressing need being improved access to water and an increased number of latrines and showers.

At the time of writing (25th August), IDPs had reportedly begun to return to Hasakeh city from all locations of displacement, following a ceasefire agreement and cessation of conflict on 23rd August, although others were reportedly waiting to ensure that the situation has stabilised. If the ceasefire is respected and the situation normalises, it is likely that returns will continue. REACH will continue monitoring the situation over the coming days to continue informing aid actors on displacement trends and needs.

REACH Hasakeh situation overview can be found on this link.

Syria: Aleppo Humanitarian Situation Overview seeks to inform response planning amid the recent emergency crisis

Following successive road closures in July and early August, and the ensuing intensified conflict in and around the city of Aleppo, more than 250,000 people remain trapped in Eastern Aleppo. Continued targeting of health centres and civilian infrastructures, as well as restrictions on humanitarian assistance have drastically limited access to basic yet vital services and supplies.

On 14-16 August, REACH teams conducted a rapid assessment in Aleppo to provide timely information on populations’ intentions and triggers, humanitarian assistance, as well as top ranked priority needs. Information presented was collected by REACH staff in Syria from key informants residing in the city sectors of Masken Hanano, Kady Asker, Bustan al Qaser, Ansari, Tarek al Bab and the Kurdish area of Sheikh Maqsoud. This information will contribute to the preparation of a joint Syrian INGO Forum effort to provide an overview of the rapidly evolving situation in Aleppo.

Although populations cannot currently leave eastern Aleppo, further intensification of shelling and reduced access to water and electricity were reported triggers that could result in an estimated third of the population (85,000 people) leaving if they were able to do so. Whilst the potential opening of humanitarian corridors outside of the city may be a pre-condition for civilians leaving, it was not reported to be sufficient to trigger of movement in absence of other triggers also occurring.

Typically, aid is reportedly prevented from entering the city at all. When it does, the presence of multiple barriers reportedly prevent people from receiving assistance, notably crowding at distribution points; and the risk of such locations being targeted by shelling. Respondents indicated a community preference for distributions to be organised in multiple stages to reduce occurrence of large gatherings, or alternatively for aid to be delivered directly to homes.

Top ranked priority needs across Eastern Aleppo were: an access to secure shelter and safe spaces to minimise impact of conflict and shelling; access to water, which has deteriorated recently, manifested in limited or intermittent access; Food security, with both affordability and availability reported as issues by KIs; and Health facilities availability: when available, the functionality of health facilities has been severely affected by conflict.

The rapid assessment is part of on-going REACH efforts to continually assess the evolving situation. The information is currently being used by stakeholders to better inform the planning and implementation of the emergency response, and further assessments will be conducted based on access and security in the coming days to continue informing aid stakeholders responding to the situation in Aleppo and surrounding areas.

The situation overview can be found on the following link: REACH Situation Overview: Intentions and Needs in Aleppo City, August 18 2016

Libya: REACH Multi-Sector Assessment informs humanitarian response amid continued unrest

The continuation of the civil war across Libya at the start of 2016 affected host and displaced communities, refugees and migrants alike, occasioning the displacement of an estimated 425,250 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who often lack access to basic services and adequate shelter. Hence, there is a continuing need for more data to inform sector-specific humanitarian planning in Libya.

Following two earlier assessments implemented by REACH and in cooperation with key humanitarian partners in August 2015 and February 2016, REACH, supported by the EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection conducted a third assessment in June 2016 to inform the humanitarian Needs Overview and Response Plan in Libya. Based on community-level data collected from over 500 People with Knowledge (PwK) in 27 municipalities in East, West and South Libya, the updated Multi-Sector Needs Assessment (MSNA) draws comparisons, where relevant, between geographically opposite communities, and between the two earlier rounds and this latest MSNA.

Key findings inform that IDPs remain in more vulnerable shelters such as hosted/collective accommodation, or unfinished buildings (40%) compared to hosts or displaced families, mostly residing in rented accommodation. High rents and widely unaffordable housing/non-food items are a challenge for many of them. While salaried employment is the primary reported source of income in assessed communities, challenges still exist: delays in salaries, limited functionality of the banking system. Those lacking sufficient access to income resort to negative coping strategies such as spending savings (in 70% of cases), taking on debts for basic needs like food, or selling household goods.

Another key concern remains protection: June 2016 saw an increase in reported threats to people’s physical safety in assessed communities, with particularly high rates of theft (69%) reported by respondents in the South, and reports of deaths by small arms in 93% of total assessed municipalities. Among IDPs, loss of documentation, and subsequent incapacity to access cash, social security and basic services, aggravates the situation of key sectors mentioned above.

Despite ongoing conflict and instability in areas across the country, the overall humanitarian situation appears to have improved compared to the previous year. The Libya MSNA, widely used to inform humanitarian actors and partners, and plan humanitarian response, highlights continuing needs across all sectors of the crisis response, and shows that further support is needed at several levels in order to improve the situation and increase the resilience of affected populations.

To access the full REACH MSNA report and recommendations, follow this link.

Photo credits: EISHIREF/ACTED 2016

Jordan: Developing innovative approaches to assess livelihood resilience

Since the onset of the Syria crisis in 2011, approximately 650,000 Syrians have registered as refugees in neighbouring Jordan. Refugee arrivals on such a large scale have increased pressures on Jordan’s existing socio-economic infrastructure and natural resources and raised concerns about what this increased pressure means for the resilience of livelihoods in the country. This highlights the need to better understand communities’ resilience to risks, and how this resilience is affected by the interaction of pre-existing vulnerabilities such as resource scarcity, with vulnerabilities brought about by the current crisis.

To enhance this understanding and support humanitarian and development actors identify programming options for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), REACH, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations’s (FAO) Regional Food Security and Analysis Network (RFSAN), designed an innovative approach to assess vulnerabilities and risks among communities across Jordan. A nationwide qualitative assessment was rolled out and 52 Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) conducted in June 2016.

The design of this assessment was particularly innovative in the Jordanian context as it adopted participatory tools such as participatory mapping and timeline exercise which, in the past, have been used predominantly to assess natural disaster risks. Instead, this assessment adopted these tools to gain detailed insights into resilience of livelihoods at the community level, in relation to both environmental risks as well as risks related to socio-economic crises. The timeline was used to trace key events and changes that have affected communities over an extended period of time. The exercise established a sequence of past shocks that have affected livelihood stability, including droughts and past refugee crises, which is useful to identify repetitive patterns and inform anticipation of similar shocks in the future. In addition to the timeline, FGDs also included participatory mapping components to identify geographic variations in livelihood activities and understand how risk perceptions vary for geographically dispersed communities across the country. Understanding such geographic variations could be useful to enhance area-based targeting of DRR programming in the country.

Overall, the incorporation of such participatory components reflects an innovative approach to assessing livelihood resilience at the community level in Jordan, while expanding the scope of disaster risk assessment from environmental risks and natural hazards to include socio-economic shocks such as inflation, unemployment and economic disruptions brought about by the ongoing crisis in Syria.

To get access to all products and projects of our Jordan field team, follow this link to our Resource Centre Jordan page.

Chad: Updated Multisectorial Needs Assessment in the Lake Region

You can read our REACH Chad staff’s “Voices from the Field” by following this link (in English) or this link (in French).

The security crisis and renewed state of emergency are still ongoing in Chad and the Lake region, already provoking an important displacement and a demographic pressure in 2015 and 2016
, with the IOM reporting more than 100,000 IDPs, refugees – mostly from Nigeria – and returnees in the region. The state of emergency and subsequent restrictions on geographical movements have had negative repercussions on the economic and food security in the area, and the Lake region suffers from an extremely weak infrastructure network, adding to the already few basic services available to vulnerable populations, seemingly occasioning a competition between hosts and displaced populations to access these services.

REACH had conducted a first Multisectorial Needs Assessment (MSNA) in January 2016 and has updated it with a new round of data collection between April and June 2016 to precisely and timely inform humanitarian response on field, and allow a precise and global overview of the displacement trends and dynamics in the area, through surveys of Key Informants (KIs), both new and from the previous assessment, informing about their areas of origin or of displacement.

Key findings highlight that more than half of surveyed villages experience displacement dynamics, with both inflows and outflows. However the displacement, despite on security concerns, tends to be more localised (within the same sous-préfecture), based on family and community ties,, and shelters used by vulnerable populations seem to have become relatively more secure than before. Food security remains one of the primary concern with the main provision sectors affected by security crisis, state of emergency and movement restrictions, occasioning prices increases of primary food items. Restrained movements, for both host and displaced populations, also affect access to basic services: access to health services has worsened for this reason as well as heightened costs, absence of transportation, and lack of medication, personnel and structures.

All this brings further concern that social cohesion could be at risk between host and displaced communities: while relationships are still mostly peaceful, tensions were already witnessed in 24% of villages surveyed, and tensions ‘could emerge in the future’ according to KIs in 28% of them.

This assessment sought to provide additional information, missing from the first assessment, to inform the humanitarian response and actors in the region. It primarily shows that there is no significant improvement in the Lake region and that previously identified humanitarian needs are still to be met.

To read REACH’s exhaustive findings and recommendations, read the full report here.

Nepal: Lack of safe land leaves communities at risk of landslide and flooding during the monsoon season

Ahead of the 2016 monsoon season in Nepal, concerns were raised that the destabilization in terrain conditions caused by the 2015 earthquakes could significantly increase the risk of landslides during monsoon rains, both in areas historically prone to landslides and flash floods, and areas that have become susceptible following the earthquakes.

In preparation of the monsoon season, the Nepal Shelter Cluster decided to develop a contingency plan focusing on the 14 earthquake-affected priority districts and 22 Terai districts previously affected by widespread flooding. In order to inform this contingency plan, REACH was requested by the cluster to facilitate a monsoon preparedness assessment across the identified districts. The assessment included a macro-level secondary data analysis to identify risk areas and estimate potential caseloads, along with collection and analysis of primary data to understand expectations of assistance, level of preparation and potential coping strategies, focusing on families already living in emergency (tents/tarpaulin) or temporary shelters.

The macro-level analysis enabled an identification of Village Development Committees (VDCs) most at risk of landslides and flooding. Within them, caseloads were estimated using a methodology derived from IASC’s Humanitarian Population Figures ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up approaches’.  The number of households most likely to need assistance in the event of monsoon impacts was estimated at 66,975 in Terai districts and at 46,894 in the 14 earthquake priority districts.

The micro-level data revealed that communities are overall aware of the risks they face but encounter considerable barriers when trying to mitigate them. For instance, many families reported not being able to purchase safe land or materials to strengthen shelters. In earthquake affected areas, many were uncertain on how to determine whether land is safe to build on and feared the impact of the monsoon: “Roads and land are at risk of extinction here, in 20 years there will be no Mamkha VDC,” predicts one FGD participant. Families in flood-affected Terai locations planned to resort to coping strategies such as taking turns to stay awake throughout the night during monsoon months, to ensure floods are noticed in time to enable all family members to flee to safety.

Assessment findings have been integrated by the Shelter cluster in its contingency plan and will be used by shelter actors to support monsoon-affected populations.

To read REACH’s recommendations based on findings from this assessment, access the full report here.

Iraq: Multicluster Needs Assessment of IDPs out of camps

The Multi Cluster Needs Assessment (MCNA) is an iterative cluster-led program and the primary multi-cluster nationwide needs assessment of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) out of camps in Iraq. The MCNA is providing a quantitative evidence base for humanitarian decision makers with the purpose of informing planning, sector prioritization and target group identification.

Coordinated through the cluster and OCHA focal points and designed in close collaboration with cluster partners, the findings of the MCNA provide insight into the key needs and gaps of IDPs in non-camp settings across Iraq, with findings statistically representative at both governorate and district level. Data collection took place between 17 March and 30 April 2016 across accessible areas in Iraq. In total, 4,573 IDP household were interviewed in 16 out of 18 governorates. Data collection in Baghdad and Salah al-Din was kindly supported through Mercy Corps. 

The MCNA III assessment found that after years of struggling with protracted displacement, IDP households outside camps have often depleted their financial resources and are resorting to increasingly negative coping mechanisms to afford basic needs. Taking on debt to satisfy basic needs has increased by over one third to a total of 30% of all households since the MCNA II (June 2015), while relying on savings decreased drastically from MCNA II (64% of all IDPs) to MCNA III (35%), indicating a depletion of resources. Limited financial means have negatively affected access to basic services: whilst overall reported access to services such as healthcare or education remained constant since the MCNA II, financial costs are currently the single most reported barrier to accessing these services.

The MCNA has become one of the key reference sources on the needs of IDPs outside camps in Iraq, capturing both immediate needs and longitudinal trends over time. Thereby, it supports planning, sector prioritization and target group identification for immediate humanitarian interventions. It is also a key tool for identification of emerging needs of IDPs outside camps across Iraq.

Click here for the final report.

All other REACH Iraq publications are available on the Iraq page of the REACH Resource Centre.

EU: Six month study of migration through the Western Balkans

Since the autumn of 2015, over half a million people migrated to Europe via the Western Balkans, most having sought asylum in countries across the European Union (EU). The vast majority of migrants travelled to Europe via Turkey, Greece and the Western Balkans. The once fluid migration route changed significantly in February, following the introduction of successive new policies and border closures, culminating in implementation of the EU-Turkey Plan, which effectively closed all borders along the Western Balkans route.

Building on a rapid assessment at the peak of migration in September 2015, REACH conducted a six month study of migration trends in the Western Balkans. Using primary data collected through group interviews with migrants, the study sought to provide detailed and actionable information to humanitarian actors and policy-makers, focussing on the demographic composition and motivation of migrant groups.

Most migrants have come from conflict-affected countries – predominantly Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq – and many are educated with previous experience of stable employment. They left home because of active conflict or insecurity, commonly triggered by a recent deterioration of the situation. The proportion of groups with more vulnerable migrants has increased over time, with growing numbers reporting they had already lived in another location for more than three months, either as a refugee elsewhere or having stopped en route in order to finance the remainder of their journey. Of particular concern were frequent reports of unaccompanied minors. Present in 18% of all interviewed groups, and in up to 50% of Afghan groups, significant numbers of unaccompanied minors have gone unidentified by authorities and face particularly acute risks in transit.

Most crucially, the report highlights the consequences of changing border policies and the EU-Turkey plan on the vulnerability of migrants. While these policy changes have led to a dramatic decrease in the number of new arrivals in Europe; those continuing to travel have been exposed to far greater risks: either left stranded along the Western Balkans route, or continuing the journey by other illegal routes, where they are more vulnerable to physical violence, trafficking and exploitation.

Continued assistance is required at several levels to address the humanitarian needs of crisis-affected populations: in transit, upon arrival, and in migrants’ areas of origin, where some of the most vulnerable community members were forced to remain behind. Migration to Europe has remained very dynamic, highlighting the need to continue monitoring migration in the future, both to inform humanitarian responders of changing needs, and policy makers of the implications of their actions.

To read REACH’s analysis and recommendations in the full report, click here.

Photo: Migrants walking along a railroad, crossing from Serbia into Hungary. Credits: UNHCR

South Sudan: IDP Caseload Estimate and Selected Locations in Juba for July 11-18, 2016

REACH and Global WASH Cluster teams in Juba, South Sudan, were able to monitor and track displacements from targeted populations within and outside the capital city during the last 10 days’ renewed outbreak of violence. The estimates show that as many as 68,000 IDPs took shelter in different areas. The two preferred locations on July 11th were the Kondokor Island, and Gurei. After a week, the estimated number of IDPs dropped to around 15,000, two thirds of whom were sheltered in UN areas, namely the UN House (6,800 IDPs) and the UNMISS Tomping area (4,000 IDPs). 

You can follow on the slideshow below the evolution of both the decreasing number and the changing selected locations of IDPs in the one week of the outbreak of violence in Juba.