Author: Simon Lawry-White led the exercise, with support from consultants Cynthia de Windt and Mari Denby
This summary report provides an overview of the key findings, lessons and recommendations from an internal Lesson Learning Exercise on UNICEF’s Response to the Emergency in the Horn of Africa in 2011-2012.
UNICEF’s response in the Horn was the first emergency response to be assigned Level 3 status since the launch in mid-2011 of the Simplified Standard Operating Procedures, which were developed to ensure an effective corporate response to large-scale emergencies. As the report shows, the activation of the Level 3 procedures led to one of the largest emergency operations UNICEF has ever undertaken – and perhaps also one of the fastest.
The exercise was commissioned by the Office of the Executive Director and undertaken by a team of external consultants, managed by the Evaluation Office, from February to April 2012.
This exercise focused on identifying which aspects of UNICEF’s response to the Horn of Africa crisis worked well, which aspects worked less well, and why. The aim was to provide practical recommendations relevant not only to the response in the Horn, but also for future Level 3 emergencies.
While meeting the request for a “light yet thorough” exercise, this report is not a formal evaluation. It is based on a lesson-learning approach, and it has relied mainly on the perceptions and opinions of UNICEF staff and on UNICEF documentation. No external partners were interviewed, and there was no third-party verification of the views and statements of UNICEF staff.
Findings and Conclusions:
The report concludes that UNICEF’s early warning systems highlighted the prolonged drought and the deteriorating food security and nutrition situation in the Horn of Africa during 2010 and 2011. UNICEF started to react to the warning signs from late 2010 through earlier pre-positioned emergency supplies. However, the scale of the UNICEF’s response during this initial stage was constrained by the available funding. The rapid escalation of the crisis in mid-2011 prompted UNICEF to activate its Level 3 procedures, which led to the successful mobilization of very substantial resources from donors and UNICEF National Committees. Similarly, UNICEF rapidly scaled up its human resources and mounted its largest-ever supply operation. Long-term investment in government and non-governmental organization partnerships paid off in terms of access, influence and operational capacity, but the application of cluster coordination arrangements did not follow the standard cluster approach. Further, there is potential for improving the effectiveness and value-for-money of UNICEF’s emergency interventions by integrating services and supporting a more cohesive approach. The introduction of the new Humanitarian Performance Monitoring System was problematic and resource intensive, but as a result of its deployment results data did improve.
The main recommendations emerging from the report provide opportunities for improvement in UNICEF’s systems, processes and procedures for its preparedness and response to major emergencies, as well as its approach to the chronic emergency conditions prevalent in the Horn of Africa. These recommendations are detailed in the Executive Summary.
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