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Assessing disaster preparedness in Rakhine state, Myanmar

For people living in Myanmar’s coastal state of Rakhine, natural disasters are a regular feature of everyday life. Since the year 2000, the state has been hit by a cyclone once every two to three years. In July 2015, Cyclone Komen displaced thousands from their homes and destroyed much of the season’s rice crop in northern parts of the state. The state’s vulnerability to disasters is further exacerbated by poverty, local sectarian tensions, and one of the highest poverty rates in the country.

In this context, REACH was mobilised between March and July 2015 to conduct a study on knowledge, attitudes and practices related to disaster preparedness across Maungdaw, Sittwe, Pauktaw, Minbya and Myebon townships in northern Rakhine. The objective of the study was to better understand how people in the state prepare for and respond to natural disasters, in order to inform disaster risk reduction (DRR) activities conducted by aid agencies and government authorities in the region. The research took place under the Program for Improved Disaster Management and Resilience Against Natural Disasters (IDM-RAND), which is funded by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), led by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and comprises of ACTED, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, and Swanyee Development Foundation.

The assessment found that people in northern Rakhine state have lived through multiple disasters and are well aware of the threats they pose. Most view dealing with the impact of natural disasters as a high priority and are interested in taking part in disaster risk reduction activities.

Despite this, a number of gaps persist in people’s capacity to cope with natural disasters. Very few people reported having received any education on disaster risk reduction. Furthermore, while the majority of respondents reported having access to early warning systems via radio broadcasts, these warnings are not always easy to interpret, and for some, are not delivered in a language they can understand. In addition, the majority of people are dependent on ad-hoc disaster shelters such as monasteries and schools, and a substantial minority have no evacuation point at all.

These findings demonstrate a clear space for aid agencies and the government to upscale disaster risk reduction education and preparation activities at both the community and administrative level. More broadly, they highlight an urgent need to mainstream disaster risk reduction into activities designed to address the wider daily challenges faced by people in Rakhine state, including accessing basic services, securing livelihoods, and building stronger and more resilient communities.

Read the complete Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Study for Disaster Risk Reduction in Northern Rakhine here.

Read a summary of REACH’s rapid assessment of communities affected by Cyclone Komen here.

Image: Flood damage in Minbya township after Cyclone Komen © Swanyee Development Foundation

Vulnerability assessment helps to inform Shelter Cluster’s recovery strategy after the Nepal earthquakes

The devastating earthquakes which struck Nepal on 25 April and 12 May affected the lives of 8 million people i.e. almost one-third of the country’s population. In the direct aftermath of the first earthquake, REACH was deployed to Nepal in partnership with the Global Shelter Cluster to coordinate an inter-agency assessment which would enable the shelter cluster to define a comprehensive shelter and settlements recovery strategy, and to verify assumptions about the delivery of assistance. Primary data was collected between 16th May and 3rd June 2015 across all 14 priority affected districts identified by the Government of Nepal.

The findings reveal widespread destruction of housing and livelihoods, with particularly high levels of housing damage in rural districts outside the Kathmandu Valley. 55% households in the accessible areas of the assessed districts reported that their homes had been heavily damaged or totally destroyed. Across the priority districts, the earthquakes had also resulted in the displacement of 79% households from their pre-crisis homes, most living nearby in makeshift shelters due to damage and the fear of aftershocks. Both the earthquakes combined destroyed 500,000 houses and hundreds of historical and cultural monuments and severely affected the water, sanitation and health facilities of affected populations. For example, in the districts of Sindhupalchok, Dolakha and Gorkha, 30% households reported having no access to health services due to the destruction of facilities.

Findings also indicate that strategic directions set out by the Shelter Cluster during the emergency relief phase were matched by the reality on the ground with a majority (59%) of displaced households reporting to have received immediate, life-saving shelter assistance in the aftermath of the earthquakes. In terms of priority needs, Corrugated Galvanised Iron (CGI) roofing and sleeping mats were reported as the priority shelter and Non Food Item (NFI) needs respectively by majority of the respondents.

As well as providing information about life-saving needs, the assessment also aimed to establish a baseline for a longitudinal study of recovery. REACH will continue to work within the Shelter Cluster framework to monitor change in needs against this baseline and to inform the development of the cluster’s recovery strategy.

Read the full report here.

Also available: Valley assessments for Dolakha, Gorkha, Langtang and Sindhupalchok.

Image: Widespread damage caused by the earthquakes in Nepal

Somalia: Rapid Needs Assessment in the aftermath of the Middle Shabelle floods

On 29th May 2015, in response to the flooding of the Middle Shabelle region in Somalia, REACH, in coordination with the Inter-Cluster Coordination Group (ICCG) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), triggered a Somalia Initial Rapid Needs Assessment (SIRNA). Funded by the EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the aim of the assessment was to evaluate the extent of the damage caused by the floods and the impact this had on the capacity of the affected population to meet immediate survival needs, and to inform humanitarian response accordingly.

Data collection comprised of both primary and secondary data in 26 villages from the three affected districts (Bal’ad, Jowhar and Mahadaay). An estimated 8,529 households reside in the affected area and 1,500 households had been displaced. Primary data collection took 5 days and included household interviews, key informant interviews, and facility and perimeter mapping.

The primary purpose of this assessment was to inform response for the most affected villages. The findings identified critical information and priority needs both at household and facility levels across all the villages most affected by the floods. The overall findings indicated WASH, Health and Food Security sectors as being amongst the sectors most affected. The report was used by OCHA and the clusters to promote appropriate responses by the cluster partners who were operating in the affected areas.

Read the full report here.

Image: Team members discussing the Kulmis Yarow breakage; © WOCCA, 27 May 2015

REACH support to the CCCM Community Level IDP Tracking Project in Syria

In late April 2015, the REACH Geographic Information System (GIS) team in Turkey launched a community-level Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) tracking map project. The aim of the project was to enhance the value of an IDP Tracking spreadsheet which was produced by the Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster (CCCM) to track notable displacements in Northern Syria following the Idleb city takeover. To this end, REACH sought to represent the data available from these tracking tables on a heat map so as to create a significant community-level output which would enable CCCM members to swiftly and clearly pinpoint the location of IDPs in most urgent need.

For the purpose of IDP Tracking, the GIS team utilizes the Common Operating Dataset (COD), a spatial dataset supplied by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) which contains points that represent the communities in Syria. Using attributes present within these points (unique identifiers called pcodes which link IDP tracking information with a unique community), REACH combined the data available from the COD and the IDP Tracking spreadsheet into a visualized heat map format.

This heat map not only shows the extent of the known displacements but also highlights gaps in existing data. For instance, it visualizes areas in which no prior displacements have been reported and also the geographic proximity of these areas to areas of known displacement. The heat map also provides a quick visual reference to determine if an area has been assessed or not. This map, along with the CCCM spreadsheet, enables evaluation of the ongoing crisis and both tools have been used by the WASH, Food Security, and Non Food Item (NFI) sectors to compare the extent of the ongoing response with the magnitude of needs.

Upon request from the CCCM chair and its members, REACH now generates governorate-wide IDP tracking maps whenever the IDP Tracking spreadsheets are updated. This map allows the CCCM members to quickly identify where to focus resources at a community-level within a governorate thereby enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency in the distribution of vital products and services to IDPs.

Image: IDP Location Map, Idleb Governorate Syria

Total number of IDPs at a community level are represented by the red color ramp .

Total number of IDPs at a sub-district level are represented by the grey color ramp.

Shelter Type as well as Gender & Age charts are added to increase value

REACH informs the shift of WFP’s new targeting policy in Iraq

As funding constraints increasingly hinder the continued provision of blanket food assistance for the Syrian Refugee crisis, the World Food Programme (WFP) commissioned REACH in Iraq to conduct an assessment in support of a programmatic shift to targeted assistance in May 2015. Effectively a census of all Syrian refugee camps, the assessment was designed to allow for the extrapolation of vulnerability criteria which could inform this shift in programming and policy. 

The entire process was collaborative; indicators were designed in partnership with WFP and UNHCR and training of field teams was organized jointly with experts from WFP’s Vulnerability Assessment and Mapping (VAM) team. The assessment itself was conducted at UNHCR case or family level and measured essential demographic, food security and livelihoods based indicators deemed essential to determine targeting criteria.

In the three weeks preceding the start of the holy month of Ramadan, field teams were deployed to each Syrian refugee camp in successive phases to conduct door-to-door data collection, ultimately surveying over 16,000 families across 9 camps. Once data collection was finalised, REACH took the lead on the data management and analysis process, producing a dataset which will serve as the cornerstone of WFP’s assistance strategy for the coming year.

The implications of this assessment go beyond informing WFP’s targeted assistance strategy. For instance, had the assessment not taken place to facilitate with targeting, assistance would have likely ceased altogether in September 2015. Moreover, further funding pledges were made following the exercise, ensuring that assistance will continue to reach the most vulnerable refugee families for at least the next year. Similar assessments are now being planned by the WFP for refugees residing in non-camp and potentially Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp settings, whose efforts REACH will continue to support.

Image: Duhok refugee camp in Iraq

Syria: Household-level study assesses critical humanitarian needs in Aleppo

The conflict in Syria which broke out in 2011 spread to the Aleppo Governorate almost a year later in early 2012. As a result of ongoing fighting, Aleppo- the largest city in Syria- has become fractured between a regime-held “western” section and an opposition-controlled “eastern” section. In March 2015, REACH conducted a household-level humanitarian needs assessment within eastern Aleppo, with a focus on food security and livelihoods.

The findings of the assessment reveal that a quarter of households were either ‘marginally’ (23%) or ‘severely’ (2.5%) food insecure based on the Food Security Index, a measure which takes into account household expenditure on food, food consumption, and the use of coping mechanisms. The vast majority of households reported that they depended on a combination of work and humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs, with income from employment alone being insufficient to make ends meet in many cases.

Nearly two-thirds (66%) of eastern Aleppo’s residents reported facing difficulties in accessing drinking water, which was reported by households as a top priority need. A large proportion of households in eastern Aleppo also lacked access to health care and education. The conflict has had a serious impact on Aleppo’s school system, with many schools destroyed or closed.  As a result, many children were not attending school, with up to 43% of households reporting at least one boy out of school and 37% at least one girl.

The study sought to assess critical humanitarian needs in those areas of eastern Aleppo that are accessible to international humanitarian agencies. Crucial information gaps persist, particularly vis-à-vis the functionality of markets, the scope of the labour market and income-generating opportunities, and the extent of existing aid distribution. Nevertheless, the assessment can assist humanitarian actors to provide targeted assistance to address specific needs and vulnerabilities identified in Syria’s largest city.

Read the full report here.

Image: A small food store in Aleppo’s opposition-held al-Maadi neighborhood.

Jordan: Comprehensive reports analyze drivers of tensions and satisfaction with service delivery within host communities

At present, there are over 629,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, a vast majority (85%) of whom live outside formal refugee camps, in host communities. This significant population shift has increased competition for employment and shelter in the host communities as well as highlighted the pressures put on Jordan’s already overburdened resources.

Between August and September 2014, REACH, with the support of the World Bank, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO), conducted a comprehensive assessment in Northern Jordan. The purpose of the assessment was to fill key information gaps regarding the drivers of tensions in Jordanian host communities as well as gaps regarding the access to and satisfaction with service provision in three Northern governorates of Jordan. The findings of this assessment resulted in two reports: one focused on the challenges to social cohesion and drivers of tensions within Jordanian host communities, the other focused on the level of access to and satisfaction with local services in the three Jordanian governorates of Irbid, Al Mafraq and Zarqa.

An assessment of the challenges to social cohesion within host communities revealed increased job competition and the rising cost of living as two primary causes of tension reported by both communities (Syrian and Jordanian). Findings also show increased competition for existing services and the discontent produced therein to be causes for increasing tensions in the communities. For example, an overwhelming majority (76%) of the households reported discontent with water shortages as a primary cause for tensions within host communities.

The second report focused on the level of access to and satisfaction with local service provisions. Through its assessment, the report also served as a baseline study for assessing the impact of the Jordan Emergency Services and Social Resilience Project (JESSRP) which aims to strengthen the capacity of municipalities by investing in social infrastructure and supporting tangible improvements at the municipal level. Results show overall dissatisfaction among communities over local service provision, with key challenges reportedly faced in waste management and public water services. 80% of households also reported not having access to a sewer system.  In sum, these findings reveal the pressures faced by local service providers and the need for improved communication between them and their constituents.

Finally, findings of both these reports demonstrate the intense pressures faced by communities and municipalities in Jordan while hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees. By identifying the primary drivers of tension within host communities as well as the pressures put on municipal services in the three governorates, national and international aid actors can improve programming to build the resilience of communities as well as the capacities of municipalities to respond to the needs of their constituents. In the coming year, with support from the World Bank and DFID, REACH will continue to monitor and evaluate the impact of the JESSRP project on local municipalities and communities, based on the findings of this first baseline assessment. Likewise, REACH continues to focus on issues of social cohesion and resilience in Jordanian host communities.

Read the complete Jordan Emergency Services and Social Resilience Project Baseline Study Report here.

Read the complete Social Cohesion in Host Communities in Northern Jordan Report here.

Image: The local market in Mafraq town. Al Mafraq governorate hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees in Jordan. 

Displacement site profiling supports camp management in South Sudan

Building on the collaboration between REACH and the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) cluster in Iraq throughout 2014-15, REACH has been partnering with the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix team, camp managers and the CCCM Cluster in South Sudan since June 2015 to regularly produce standardised information products across the major displacement sites in the country.

Since December 2013 when civil war broke out in South Sudan, REACH has supported camp coordination and management by conducting regular site mapping, shelter and intentions assessments and representing the cluster for Initial Rapid Needs Assessments in parts of the country where humanitarian access is particularly challenging.

REACH has recently produced site snapshots for the 3 different Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites at UN House in Juba, PoC 1, PoC 2 and PoC 3, which provides key information about the population of each site, together with its performance against key indicators for each sector. An overview profile of UN House Sites provides a comparative overview of conditions across all three sites.

REACH has already released factsheets for Mingkaman informal site, and PoC sites in Bor and Bentiu. REACH will soon also publish similar snapshots for the other major displacement sites in South Sudan, including PoC sites in Malakal and Melut.

“The REACH-CCCM site profiles have been very useful for presenting to donors and dignitaries visiting the different POCs in UN House to give them an overview of the site, and to highlight key hot topics and challenges experienced across the different sites.” explains the Camp Manager of the UN House Site, “REACH maps have also been very useful for site planning of new infrastructure and as a reference when discussing issues with camp stakeholders”.

Currently the REACH and CCCM teams are looking into further research regarding topics around the intentions and perceptions of displaced houesholds involved with volunteer re-integration programmes in some of the major displacement sites in South Sudan.

Image: UN House PoC 2.