2010 Yemen: Real-Time Evaluation of UNICEF’s Response to the Sa’ada Conflict in Northern Yemen
Author: Dr. Julia Steets, Mr. Khalid Dubai. Institution: Global Public Policy Institute, Interaction in Development
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The last round of intensive fighting escalated in August 2009 and was ended by a ceasefire in February 2010. Saudi Arabia actively intervened in this sixth round of the conflict through air strikes in support of the government of Yemen after Al-Houthis crossed the border. This round of the conflict has led to an estimated 200,000 to 350,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The scale of the conflict and its consequences in 2009/2010 were much larger than during previous rounds of fighting and the government became more open to acknowledging the conflict and allowing humanitarian workers access to affected populations outside areas affected by active fighting. International as well as national humanitarian actors therefore were able to significantly scale-up their presence and activities in response to the emergency.
Based on its development presence and drawing on its internal funding mechanisms, UNICEF played an important role in the response to the emergency. UNICEF acts as lead agency and therefore provider of last resort for the nutrition and WASH clusters as well as the child protection sub-cluster. UNICEF is also the co-lead and local lead organization for the education cluster. It or its implementing partners provide IDPs among others with services relating to water, sanitation and hygiene, education, early childhood development, child protection and nutrition.
The evaluation assesses the performance of its relief activities to date by exploring what works, what does not and why in UNICEF’s response the conflict-related emergency in Northern Yemen. As a Real-Time Evaluation, this evaluation focused on working with those who implement and manage the response in order to identify lessons, define priority recommendations for improving current and future operations, and agree on a process for implementation. It focuses mainly on the response to the sixth round of fighting between August 2009 and the time of the evaluation mission in July and August 2010. It includes preparedness activities before the emergency as well as current planning for the expansion of activities and the transition to recovery and development. The evaluation assesses the response in terms of timeliness, appropriateness, effectiveness, coverage, coordination, coherence, connectedness, and efficiency.
The evaluation was managed by the Monitoring and Evaluation Section of UNICEF’s Country Office and Yemen and received guidance through an inter-agency Reference Group. It consisted of two phases: a data gathering phase and an analysis and learning phase. To gather relevant data, the evaluation team conducted semi-structured interviews and group discussions with all relevant stakeholders, visited operations in Amran, Haradh and Sa’ada, and analysed documents. As a Real-Time Evaluation, the exercise strongly relied on participatory methods to facilitate learning. During the country mission, the evaluation team organised four debriefings and three participatory workshops responding to demands of important stakeholders.
Findings and Conclusions:
The evaluation found that key stakeholders in Yemen, including the population affected by the conflict in Sa’ada, the government and local authorities as well as humanitarian partner organisations, highly appreciate UNICEF’s presence and its commitment to addressing emergency needs in Northern Yemen. UNICEF’s most important achievements relating to the emergency response include:
- UNICEF was one of the first organisations active in implementing relief activities on the ground and several of its staff members demonstrated an impressive level of commitment, initially including the direct implementation of relief activities in the absence of experienced implementing partners.
- The country team showed a good capacity to identify problems and address them in the two main IDP camps in Haradh. This capacity to learn was supported by the existence of several effective institutional processes for identifying lessons.
- UNICEF and its implementing partners achieved good coverage of services in most of its areas of responsibility in Al-Mazrak camps 1 and 3 in Haradh and beneficiaries in these camps described interventions as largely appropriate (if not always sufficient) to their needs.
- Several of UNICEF’s interventions had a good link to recovery and development, including for example the piped water system serving IDPs as well as host communities, the newly introduced system of water quality control and interventions educating and building the capacity of IDPs and local partner organisations.
The most important challenges currently confronting UNICEF in Yemen include:
- UNICEF was ill-prepared for the emergency in Northern Yemen, currently has no active contingency plans and, like other organisations in Yemen, lacks the necessary data and analysis for improving preparedness and longer-term planning.
- The current response focuses mainly on two camps in Haradh, while services for IDPs outside those camps, for host communities and in other governorates remain sketchy. According to UNHCR estimates, however, less than 17% of IDPs currently live in camps. Moreover, there are gaps in humanitarian response relating to landmines, child soldiers, education (above grade six) and the special needs of some groups.
- Despite an initially timely response, UNICEF’s later activities were often delayed and some of the materials used, especially large tents used for educational activities, are not appropriate for the climatic conditions in Northern Yemen.
- UNICEF’s country office largely operates in “development mode”, leading to the overburdening of regular staff as well as processes, structures and competencies that are not adapted to the needs of an emergency situation.
- Coordination gaps persist despite progress in this area and UNICEF’s work through local implementing partners faces quality problems.
With Yemen facing a very dynamic situation in the short-term and a very high risk of new emergencies in the medium-term, it is important for UNICEF to increase its capacity to respond to disasters. To do so, the organisation needs to take strategic decisions on how to balance its engagement in emergency relief with its development-oriented activities. To do so, UNICEF needs to conduct a thorough situation analysis and develop contingency plans with its partners as well as adapt its organisational structures, processes and capacities accordingly. The report contains detailed recommendations prioritised by UNICEF’s emergency team in Yemen.
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