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Building Capacity on Coordinated Humanitarian Assessments for the Syria Crisis

Last week, REACH carried out a Comprehensive Training on Needs Assessment in Gaziantep, Turkey, in partnership with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Syria Needs Analysis Project (SNAP). The training was attended by 35 participants from 30 different organizations, in order to develop the skills of assessment stakeholders, build the capacity of staff trainers in different organizations operating inside Syria, and broaden the understanding of humanitarian assessments among a wide range of participating stakeholders. The training was facilitated by an experienced team from REACH, SNAP and OCHA, many of whom had travelled to the training from regional and global offices.

The week-long training provided a broad overview of the assessment and analysis process and included sessions the Humanitarian Reform and Humanitarian Cycle, primary data collection, data analysis, assessment coordination, and multi-sectoral assessments involving a wide range of stakeholders. Presentations were supported by practical exercises, in which the participants were able to draw on their own experiences and expertise, and practise using tools and technology such as smartphone surveys for data collection. Many participants had taken part in the Syria Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment in 2014, and could share their views on the challenges of implementing such a large scale coordinated assessment, where humanitarian access was limited.

This training was a coordinated effort by the co-chairs and technical working group of the Syria Assessment Monitoring Initiative (SAMI) in Turkey, and was also supported by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) in the region. In the coming weeks, OCHA will be organising an additional follow-up training for participants interested in using the Kobo tool for mobile data collection.

Read the Lessons Learned from Syria Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment, February 2015
For further information on humanitarian assessment training, please contact

New count shows decrease in population of Za’atari refugee camp

Children play in Za’atari Camp, Jordan
Children play in Za’atari Camp, Jordan

Between 30 December 2014 and 18 January 2015, REACH conducted a population count in Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan, in partnership with UNICEF. The count provided vital information on the population of each block and district of Za’atari, including the date of arrival and type of shelter, and will help humanitarian organisation delivering aid in the camp to plan assistance and services appropriately.

The population count, in which teams of data collectors covered every household in the camp using a smartphone based survey, showed that 78,086 individuals were present in Za’atari at the time of assessment. This represents 7,954 fewer people than the last population count by REACH in June 2014.

While the decrease in population may be partly due to winter Storm Huda, which caused many residents to relocate elsewhere at the time of data collection, REACH conducted a series of community discussions to understand whether residents had left the camp permanently or were planning to return. Refugees explained that some people remain registered in Za’atari camp while living elsewhere: some in order to remain entitled to assistance from the camp; some to allow them to return to the camp if housing or livelihoods elsewhere were lost; and others during periods of temporary absence, while families stay with friends or relatives during the cold winter months.

The assessment also provided information on shelter types, with the vast majority of households (80%) recorded as living in caravans, 11% living in a combination of tents and caravans; and 10% in tents. Almost half of households reported arriving in Za’atari camp between January and June 2014, and more than 83% of residents have lived in Za’atari for more than one year. Movement within the camp appeared to be limited, with the vast majority of households reporting they had stayed in the same location since arrival.

The revised population figures have implications for the many humanitarian actors who operate in the camp, and the openly available data will allow them to plan programmes based on the revised case-loads. Other external factors, such as the recent harsh weather conditions, are likely to cause further fluctuations in the camp population over the coming months. In this dynamic and evolving context, regular population counts ensure that humanitarian actors operating in Za’atari are well informed about the population that they are serving.

View REACH’s Interactive Dashboard of Za’atari Camp population count data
The full report is available here: Za’atari Camp Population Count, Jordan, February 2015

Assessing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene needs of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As the Syrian Crisis enters its fourth year, the number of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon is now exceeding 1.1 million[1]. Such a significant population increase has placed the country’s infrastructure under strain, notably with regards to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). This has been especially true for the Akkar Governorate in northern Lebanon, which now hosts more than 110,000 Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR[2].

At the request of the WASH Working Group in Akkar, and supported by UNHCR, REACH conducted an assessment of water, sanitation, and hygiene in Syrian refugee households in Akkar Governorate, one of the poorest in the country. The assessment established a set of baseline data on the different types of WASH needs and resources of these households. It also evaluated refugees’ knowledge, attitudes and practices in order to understand the relationship between needs and practices, as a basis for humanitarian actors and the Government of Lebanon to develop more effective interventions.

The scale of the problem in Akkar was compounded by the fact that refugees live in a variety of shelter contexts and conditions, including informal settlements, unfinished buildings and homes within the host community. As access to WASH facilities and shelter type are closely related, the needs observed differed greatly, depending on where refugee families were living.

Overall, the assessment found that difficulties in obtaining safe drinking water were widespread, and highlighted a crucial need to improve latrine access and quality in a substantial majority of refugee households. It also revealed that refugees’ main health concerns were often directly linked to water, sanitation, and hygiene. While refugee households were found to have a good knowledge of the principles of hygiene and links with health, they reported that this knowledge was not always put into practice. In some cases a lack of infrastructure and resources was reported to be responsible for poor hygienic practices.

Distinguishing between the appropriateness of different types of interventions is fundamental to designing effective programming. Therefore, the gaps identified in this study need to be filled both through interventions that promote access to WASH facilities and clean drinking water, or through hygiene promotion.

The full report is available here: WASH Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Akkar Gvernorate Lebanon (Jan 2015).

[1] UNHCR (2014) “Registration Trends for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon”

[2] Ibid.

REACH supports efforts to improve sanitation in the Philippines

In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, REACH assessments of damage to water and sanitation infrastructure informed emergency response and early recovery planning, including the rehabilitation of water systems and latrines in the most affected areas.  More than one year on, the focus has shifted from emergency interventions to sustainable development, and there is a critical opportunity to address long-term sanitation challenges such as open defecation, which remains a major problem in the Philippines. Open defecation contributes to the almost 10, 000 deaths caused by diarrhoea every year in the country, and constrains economic and social development.

Planning and implementing sustainable solutions to this long-term challenge requires in-depth data which goes beyond infrastructure to encompass social norms. REACH worked to fill this information gap through a large scale assessment conducted in September-November 2014, comprising of (in each of six provinces) a large-scale household survey, community focus group discussions, a school survey, student focus group discussions and key informant interviews with representatives from the Department of Health, Department of Education and Department of Interior and Local Government. The qualitative and quantitative components of this assessment provided detailed baseline data on sanitation knowledge, attitudes and practices at household and school level across six provinces of the Philippines.

This baseline data will be used by UNICEF and partners to inform planning and implementation of the Philippines Approach to Total Sanitation (PhaTS) program, as well as to measure its progress. The program is expected to reach over 900, 000 beneficiaries, and  aims to end the practice of open defecation through facilitating changes in social norms and fuelling demand for sanitation and hygiene; sustaining demand through supply side interventions; and promoting good governance, resilience and disaster risk reduction.

Click to read more about the UNICEF Philippines Approach to Total Sanitation program.

Bilingual maps promote coordination in Iraq’s displacement sites

Camps and informal settlements are home to thousands of displaced families in Iraq’s Northern Governorates and the Kurdistan Region, KRI, where around 220,000 Syrian refugees and 1.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently live. To cope with the large number of arrivals between June and August 2014, many new displacement sites have recently been established and others expanded or re-opened.

REACH has been producing maps to assist with site planning, camp management, and the analysis of camp conditions, in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster (CCCM).

Multiple actors work in Northern Iraq’s displacement sites, including United Nations and Government agencies, National and International non-governmental organizations, as well as numerous community based organisations and local volunteers. The availability of bilingual maps in both English and Arabic means that information is more easily accessible to all those involved, including members of the displaced community.

In order to improve cooperation, coordination and collaboration between all those working in camps, general infrastructure maps are now available in both English and Arabic for over 30 camps and informal settlements in the Northern Iraq.

All camp maps for Iraq are available on the REACH Resource Centre

Rapid mapping of storm damage in Za’atari Camp, Jordan

Torrential rains, heavy snow, high winds and hail have swept across the Middle East, exacerbating the already precarious living conditions of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, many in camps and informal settlements. Storm Huda has caused significant damage to shelters and infrastructure in Za’atari refugee camp, where REACH teams are supporting humanitarian partners to map the damage and ensure a coordinated response.

Severe weather conditions made access to the camp difficult, leaving many humanitarian actors unaware of the true extent of damage in Za’atari until publication of the first map on January 9th. This map compiled available information about flooding, blocked roads, and areas of significant shelter damage in Za’atari. The exercise highlighted the critical situation of refugees living in canvas tents, around 20% of the 84,729 Syrian refugees registered in the camp, which have been most heavily affected by the storm. Some shelters had been blown away by the high winds, and others completely destroyed.

The first map was used immediately as a baseline for further data collection. REACH distributed maps to all humanitarian actors in the camp, who added their own observations and updates as they worked to repair tents, pump water away from flooded areas and de-sludge WASH facilities. The latest updates were compiled into a second map, released on January 11th, which provided partners with up to date information on remaining needs and gaps. In order to avoid the duplication of information, each partner organization was assigned different districts in which to continue data collection. In the coming days, REACH will continue to map the impact of this coordinated intervention to respond to storm damage.

The latest map is available here, and updated information will be mapped as soon as this becomes available.

All maps, reports and factsheets for the refugee response in Jordan can be found on the REACH Resource Centre.

REACH Contributes to Shelter Projects 2014

An article by REACH on the importance of assessment in humanitarian shelter has been included in the latest volume of Shelter Projects, a publication and online collection of shelter case studies following conflict and natural disaster.

The Shelter Case Studies Project, led by UNHCR, UN-Habitat and IFRC, has collected examples of good practice in shelter and settlement programming since 2008, and currently includes over 150 articles from around the world. Aimed at project managers and humanitarian practitioners in the shelter sector, the publication promotes reflective practice: encouraging all those involved in a humanitarian shelter response, regardless of their technical knowledge, to learn from past experiences.

The 2013-14 edition includes a series of opinion pieces. Rather than focussing on a specific shelter project and context, these articles discuss issues faced in many current shelter responses, including security of tenure, cash programming, assessment, urban approaches, and support to host families.

REACH’s article on assessment examines how collaborative needs assessment can contribute to a coordinated shelter response. Using examples from the Philippines, Iraq, and Somalia, in partnership with the Global Shelter Cluster, the article discusses the importance of timing, the need for information sharing, and the role of emerging technology in humanitarian shelter assessments.

All Shelter Projects articles from 2008-2014 are available from

Coordinated assessment supports humanitarian response to “the world’s largest protection crisis”

At a briefing for major donors in Ankara in early December, REACH presented the findings of a multi-sector needs assessment of 126 areas in Northern Syria, together with key humanitarian partners including the United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Syria Needs Analysis Project (SNAP).

The needs assessment is a joint effort by the humanitarian community in Turkey to conduct a multi-organisation, multi-sector humanitarian needs assessment in accessible areas in Syria, described by UN officials as the “world’s largest protection crisis“. More than 17 operational organisations, sector chairs and members participated in the exercise, coordinated by REACH and OCHA through the Syria Assessment and Monitoring Initiative (SAMI).

The purpose of the initiative is to provide valid information at a strategic level to identify critical needs according to geographic areas and sectors, assessing the most important issues and the underlying factors that affect them, the ongoing humanitarian response, humanitarian access, and information gaps.

The presentation gave an overview of the key issues affecting 15.6 million people across Northern Syria, including 4.8 million internally displaced persons. The findings focussed on the specific needs of women, men, children and the elderly, and included a an analysis of needs across the sectors of Food; Health; Water, Hygiene and Sanitation; Shelter; and Non-Food Items. The assessment identified several highly relevant “hotspots”, where specific protection assessments are needed to understand these issues further.

In the coming weeks, REACH, OCHA and SNAP will work together to more closely integrate the MSNA and other assessments in northern Syria, with information available to humanitarian actors across the Middle East and North Africa region. Improving assessment coordination across the region and supporting complementary approaches through a “Whole of Syria approach”, will enable humanitarian actors to respond more effectively to the 12.2 million people in need inside Syria, and more than 3.2 million refugees. 

The following documents can be viewed below:
Multi Sector Needs Assessment presentation (December 2014)
Multi Sector Needs Assessment report (October 204)
Multi Sector Needs Assessment Executive Summary (October 2014)

First round of profiles released for IDP camps and sites in Northern Iraq

The worsening security situation in parts of northern and central Iraq has caused mass internal displacement across much of the country. More than 48% of the 2.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have sought refuge in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), Diyala and Ninewa governorates. Informal settlements and formal camps have been established or re-opened in these governorates between mid-June and the end of August 2014 and are now home to thousands of displaced families.

The sites were hastily arranged to cope with the large number of new arrivals, many without camp managers in place until the end of August. As a result, information on the vulnerabilities and needs of the displaced population, their shelter arrangements and available assistance at each site was incomplete. In response to these information gaps, REACH Initiative launched an assessment at the request of the CCCM Cluster to profile settlements and camps that had reached at least 50% capacity by the end of September. Primary data was collected through household surveys on 28 September – 9 October 2014, and additional information from camp managers was collected through interviews on 13 – 27 October 2014.

REACH produced individual dashboards and maps of eleven settlements in Diyala, Duhok, Erbil, Ninewa and Sulaymaniyah governorates, as well as a multi sector comparison factsheet comparing the conditions and needs across all sites.

The following products are available on the REACH Resource CentreRelief Web and the Humanitarian Response portal:

Also available is a full list of reports and factsheets for the Iraq IDP crisis since June 2012