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Evaluation report

2005 Global: Joint UNICEF-DFID Evaluation of UNICEF Preparedness and Early Response to the Darfur Emergency



Author: Grunewald, F.; Barr, E.; Toscanno, A.; Gades, A.

Executive summary

Background:

Although initial signals indicated that a crisis was developing in Darfur in early 2003, the international community was distracted by other international events, including the Naivasha Peace process in Sudan and the Kassala Floods. As the crisis gradually escalated in Darfur and the number of IDPs and refugees continued to rise throughout 2003 and early 2004, affected populations began to assemble in camps. Prior to the crisis, UNICEF was involved in Darfur through its regular programmes. The UNICEF response to the Darfur emergency comprised four phases:

- Early phase: from March/April 2003 to beginning October 2003
UNICEF was among the very few agencies present in Darfur, and responded early with small-scale interventions. Government restrictions, limited resources and insufficient implementing partnershave impacted UNICEF’s capacity to respond.

- Intermediate phase: from November 2003 to early Spring 2004
Security conditions worsened and access to a widely-dispersed population was severely restricted. At this point, only limited emergency funding was available for Darfur. The UNICEF Country Office (CO) provided some relief where access and resources permitted. Awareness started to grow at NYHQ and Regional Office (RO) of the developing emergency situation.

- Development of a full-fledged response: May to September 2004
UNICEF activated the corporate trigger on 20 May 2004, declaring Darfur an organisation-wide emergency. UNICEF’s response had expanded significantly by June/July 2004.

- Stabilisation phase: October 2004 to present day
Now that operations are relatively well-resourced, both in human and financial terms, UNICEF has begun to consolidate its activities. The recent nomination of a UNICEF Special Representative for Darfur, with authority in both Sudan and Chad, has also had a positive impact on the Darfur operation. The challenge facing humanitarian agencies now is to maintain momentum, reinforce coordination activities, improve the quality of the response and lay down a long-term strategic plan.

Purpose/Objective:

The objectives of this joint UNICEF/DFID evaluation were to:

  • Examine the relevance and timeliness of preparedness planning, early intervention and the 90-Day plan, as well as the effectiveness and efficiency of management and operational support;
  • Extract lessons to help UNICEF enhance its preparedness and its ability to respond in a meaningful and effective way to emergencies.

Methodology:

Over a month-long period, the Evaluation Team visited Sudan, including Khartoum and the three Darfur states, UNICEF Regional Office (RO) in Amman, UNICEF New York headquarters (NYHQ), and conducted telephone interviews with additional key UNICEF and DFID staff and external stakeholders. A desk study, including a review of financial and supply records, was carried out before and during the mission. Two feedback workshops took place during the evaluation: one in Khartoum (3-4/11/04) and one in Geneva (19/11/04). The findings and recommendations of this evaluation will be integrated into a wider learning process within UNICEF and their application will strengthen DFID/UNICEF working relations.

Findings and Conclusions:

Relevance
The sectors of intervention (child protection, education, WES, health and nutrition) were extremely relevant to the Darfur crisis, while the operational strategies and timeframe were, in many instances, less so. In 2003 and early 2004, Sudan was confronted with a series of emergencies that placed the CO under extreme pressure. This hampered the CO’s ability to appreciate the nature or magnitude of the crisis which, in turn, weighed heavily on the shift from a development approach to a full-fledged emergency response.

Effectiveness
The very early response in 2003, with initial provision of supplies from the contingency stockpile, was effective, even though limited. Activities carried out over the period from November 2003 to May 2004 were far less so. Until the corporate trigger was activated, UNICEF recruitment processes could not support the emergency response. UNICEF was heavily reliant on external surge capacity, a risk for an institution with both operational and normative roles. Additionally, certain technical choices significantly limited programme effectiveness.

Efficiency
In the absence of operational partners, the use of private contractors (in June 2004) in drilling and latrine construction to meet increased targets proved cost-effective, although quality issues later became apparent. The June 2004 participatory field workshops significantly raised the implementation rate. Standby arrangements with certain institutional donors (for example, DFID) and NGOs are very efficient mechanisms, although there is a risk that UNICEF’s corporate image may suffer. Attempting to mainstream emergency relief into development programmes at the expense of the emergency response capacity should be avoided.

Impact
After months of difficulties, the activities of UNICEF and its partners finally started to have an impact in most sectors of intervention during the 2004 rainy season. Achievements include better access to water, improved nutritional status, higher enrolment rate in schools, etc. However, relatively weak monitoring systems limited UNICEF’s capacity to measure progress and assess impact. Continuing violence against women and children seems to indicate that the initial UNICEF advocacy has, like many other similar efforts, been largely ignored.

Coordination and coherence
UNICEF’s initial performance in coordination does point to a global weakness in UNICEF emergency coordination capacity (see Appendix 7). The lack of leadership on protection issues in the UN system made the articulation of child protection activities with the rest of the protection sector, more complicated. Internal coordination between the different stakeholders within the UNICEF structure has not always been optimal. Chad and Sudan coordination is still at its early stage. The recent nomination of a UNICEF Special Representative for Darfur and Eastern Chad, and the establishment of a dedicated team should ease the burden on the CO.

Sustainability
Whether sustainability is prioritised in Darfur operations is likely to depend on how the situation evolves. There are three likely scenarios: firstly, the situation continues to deteriorate, with increasing demand for emergency relief; secondly, the status quo is maintained and interventions will, broadly speaking, focus on care and maintenance; or thirdly, the situation stabilises, creating ad-hoc requirements for rehabilitation. Expansion of the programmes to as yet inaccessible areas, support to non-IDP affected populations and quality control represent key challenges. The relatively high level of assistance provided to IDPs will make it more difficult for them to return to their villages, underlining the importance of routinely providing support to host communities. Certain issues, such as the importance of a response with a longer-term outlook, of ensuring a degree of sustainability and of taking the fate of the resident populations into account, did not receive sufficient attention during the early phases of the operation. Planning an exit strategy, programme stabilisation and a post-emergency strategy are nevertheless recommended good practice.

In conclusion
The difficulties experienced by UNICEF in its management of the Darfur crisis have raised some questions about the agency’s capacity to deliver and coordinate emergency operations. The quality of the relationship between DFID and UNICEF has suffered to a certain extent, despite clear improvement in UNICEF’s performance from June 2004 onwards. However, this evaluation exercise proves that both parties are committed to restoring confidence levels.

Recommendations:
GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR UNICEF
Recommendations to enhance UNICEF Emergency Response Capacity
- CCCs should be revised, especially the timeframe, which is not adapted to slow onset crises and protracted conflicts.
- UNICEF should continue to improve its early warning and preparedness system by strengthening OPSCEN and EMOPS Geneva, creating an ERT, boosting its surge capacity and developing standard operational procedures.
- UNICEF should strengthen RO's and EMOPS' roles in their guidance role to CO.
- The creation of a dedicated emergency team at CO level should be compulsory procedure in times of emergency.
- UNICEF should continue to develop and promote strong advocacy tools regarding children in war and SGBV.
- WES NYHQ emergency staffing capacity should be increased urgently. WES NYHQ should ensure that the WES Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan of Action 2004-2005 targets are financed and met.
- The question of whether UNICEF should become operational in circumstances where there is a lack of partners should be explored further.

Operational recommendations for the management of Emergency Programme
- Greater attention should be paid to systems aimed at monitoring the crisis situation and how operations are running, as they provide essential information for programme management.
- The importance of sector and inter-agency coordination should be acknowledged with an appropriate level of resource allocation.

Recommendations for the current Darfur operation

General recommendations

  • CO should further explore means of gathering information on inaccessible areas. CO should continue to ensure that all major planning exercises include Zonal Offices as well as partners.
  • Focus on quality should be supported by an overall improvement of monitoring and reporting systems.
  • A follow-up multidisciplinary evaluation exercise to assess progress should be included in 2005 Action Plan.

Cross-border issues

  • The CO should continue to regularly update contingency planning on a cross-border basis. Significant energy has still to be invested in the Chad/Sudan coordination.
  • CO should ensure that joint planning meetings between technical sectors are held regularly for information exchange and identification of cross-sector synergies.

Recommendations for the UNICEF/DFID partnership
Diversified and coordinated mechanisms to ensure a good dialogue with DFID should be established, with the PFO retaining its prominent role.



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Report information

Date:
2005

Region:
MENA

Country:
Sudan

Type:
Evaluation

Theme:
Emergency - Response

Partners:
DFID

PIDB:

Follow Up:

Language:
English

Sequence Number:
2004/009

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