2015 Philippines: Evaluation of UNICEF-supported child-friendly spaces in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), November 2013–November 2014
Author: Alexander Krueger, Solveig Routier, Trish Hiddleston and Vimala Crispin
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On 8 November 2013, super Typhoon Haiyan became one of the most powerful tropical storms ever recorded, striking the Visayas region of the Philippines and causing massive death and destruction. The scale of the disaster resulted in needs that stretched the capacity of the Philippine Government. United Nations agencies quickly mobilized in response to an early government request for assistance. The Philippine Government and the Humanitarian Country Team launched the cluster approach in Haiyan areas.
Two multiple cluster/sector initial rapid assessments (MIRAs) were carried out. These appraisals informed the Interagency Strategic Response Plan released on 6 December 2013 for a 12-month period. UNICEF component to the total Interagency Strategic Response Plan appeal was US$130 million.
After a disaster of this magnitude, violations of children’s rights often increase dramatically. These include, among others, their right to survival, protection, development and participation. The UNICEF response efforts were designed to strengthen the protection of children’s rights.
Over the course of 2014, UNICEF reported reaching 43,907 children through 171 newly established child-friendly spaces (CFS), with around 80 per cent of children in affected areas registered in a CFS. The latest internal monitoring results, however, suggest that UNICEF supported a revised total of 280 CFS.
A UNICEF review of the CFS conducted in January 2014, concluded that although community members and children viewed these spaces positively, the strategy’s role in early recovery, child protection system strengthening and in providing a harmonized approach to protecting the well-being of all children had not been well established. Following the 2014 review, UNICEF Philippines began to consider the need to evaluate the CFS strategy in its Typhoon Haiyan response. The findings presented here, commissioned at the end of December 2014, are the result of that evaluation.
The purpose of this formative evaluation is to help strengthen the child protection programming response during emergencies in the Philippines and to inform the current and future policy and practice of UNICEF as well as national and local authorities regarding the use of child-friendly spaces. The overall objective was to determine the relevance, protective and restorative effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of UNICEF-supported CFS by drawing on the experiences and lessons from the Typhoon Haiyan period. These insights are also intended to contribute to the expansion of the global evidence base on child protection in emergencies and enhance learning on the conceptualization and implementation of CFS.
Specifically, this evaluation had four objectives:
- Examine how CFS contributed to child protection programming in the context of relief and recovery in emergencies.
- Assess the role of UNICEF-supported CFS as a response and protection mechanism in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan:
a. in the context of the affected areas
b. using the Guidelines for Child-Friendly Spaces in Emergencies, the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action and the UNICEF Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action (CCCs).
- Determine the extent to which the CFS integrated principles, such as equity, gender sensitivity, inclusivity, community participation and human rights, and were actually implemented in practice.
- Document lessons, good practices and challenges in the establishment of and implementation of CFS.
To fulfill a formative function, this evaluation built upon the evidence collected, the analysis conducted and the conclusions and recommendations developed in an iterative manner. It involved daily debriefings, ongoing analysis of emerging findings and adjustment of tools throughout the data collection process. The iteration of participatory analysis and consideration of findings with staff from several organizations involved in the CFS experience, occurred primarily during the formal, planned validation meetings at the regional and national level and through a series of meetings and interviews with UNICEF staff in Manila and at the regional level at different stages of the data collection process.
To carry out this evaluation, a combination of qualitative and quantitative data collection methods were used, including: a comprehensive desk review, group discussions involving different community groups, group interviews, community level and the national level semi-structured interviews, a survey involving CFS managers, and regional and national validation meetings.
To reach convincing conclusions representative of the whole CFS implementation experience in Haiyan, the evaluation was constructed as an incremental process of identification, analysis, verification and validation of hypotheses taking shape around the evaluation criteria and core questions. Based on a consistent picture that emerged from the desk review, an in-depth investigation of how CFS were set up and developed in communities (micro analysis) was then undertaken. This process was conducted in four sites based on agreed criteria capturing different experiences.
Then the investigation was expanded to a larger number of informants from six CFS sites to confirm the hypotheses where consistencies among emerging findings were evident. Building on the emerging findings, a survey of 74 operational CFS was conducted to verify the generalizability of the findings from the micro and macro analyses.
Findings and Conclusions:
This evaluation found the use of CFS as a child protection response to the disaster created by Typhoon Haiyan only partially successful.
The relevance of the strategy to implement CFS as the primary child protection response to Typhoon Haiyan does not seem to have been considered in depth in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Questions related to the overall objectives of the strategy, why a CFS strategy was selected, etc., were not examined in detail.
In the Haiyan-affected areas of the Philippines, the Generation I CFS were an appropriate means of providing basic support to children and the restoration of a sense of normalcy among community members but Generation II CFS, which attempted to integrate emergency response, and child protection systems strengthening, lacked conceptual clarity.
CFS were seen by locals as a positive and constructive sign in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon that the outside community was sending help but from a wider child protection perspective, however, the limited engagement with and involvement of the community diminished their effectiveness.
The overall child protection programme response was relatively efficient in mobilizing supplies and making them available to partners for immediate use in the first wave of CFS. However, the delay in finalizing the programme cooperation agreements were universally considered to be unacceptable in an emergency.
A key question is whether CFS are meant to be sustainable in the long term or whether their primary and most effective function is during the immediate aftermath of an emergency. The rationale for the longer-term operation of the CFS and the transition to community management does not appear to have been thought through in the child protection Strategic Response Plan.
If CFS are selected as the response strategy in an emergency situation, government agencies, UNICEF and international organizations (together in the CPWG) are recommended to:
- Clearly spell out the CFS rationale, expected results and functions.
- Maintain CFS beyond a relief phase only if the circumstances require it.
- If the CFS strategy is mandated to serve a long-term function, develop a solid theory of change before entering the recovery phase to explain how the CFS is able and intended to contribute to the articulated long-term outcomes.
- If the CFS strategy is considered to be the most appropriate strategy for the relief phase, ensure that it does not replace, overlap or undermine any existing function of the child protection system in the context. This requires functional knowledge of the child protection system at the local level.
- In all circumstances, conduct a community-level assessment to ensure that the strategies adopted are adapted to the specific characteristics and needs of children and families. The assessment of the situation could be staged and carried out incrementally.
- Establish dialogue with potential beneficiaries and communities from the outset to verify whether the CFS is genuinely needed, desirable and appropriate or if a different approach would be more effective.
- If CFS is determined to be the most appropriate strategy for the emergency context, then during the relief phase, focus on establishing its minimal functions from the beginning (providing recreation, safe space, psychosocial support) and for all children.
- Establish CFS in coordination with communities (not only local authorities) and be proactive in the community.
- CFS staffing should be realistically considered during the planning phase. Weigh the numbers and capabilities of staff to be recruited against the envisioned objectives of the CFS; the more complex the model, the more specialized and skilled its staff needs to be, in an emergency.
The following lessons are for consideration in future emergency situations:
- International expertise cannot replace local knowledge, experience and understanding of a context. Developing a solid understanding of the needs is as essential as prepositioning supplies.
- Emphasis on the physical establishment of a physical space at the expense of their actual function overshadows consideration of other potentially more appropriate strategies.
- International commitments, standards and guidance should guide – but not dictate – locally adapted and emergency-specific child protection response plans.
- Lack of analysis of how the CFS can contribute, interact and complement broader child protection initiatives and other sectors decreases opportunities for positive outcomes for children and families.
- Needs evolve according to situations. Evacuation centres and camps might need CFS in the long term, while communities generally re-establish safe areas, play spaces and routines relatively quickly after a natural disaster.
- As a strategy that responds to relief, recovery and long-term reconstruction situations, CFS have evident limitations because one size does not fit all.
- CFS can contribute to positive changes for children and families when kept simple and focused on serving specific needs related to the relief emergency phase.
- CFS might not need to be sustainable if their functions are only necessary in specific circumstances.
- Organizations should hold each other accountable and should feel a common sense of responsibility to ensure that strategies and programmes are constantly assessed and adapted to do this.
- A key common finding is that implementing CFS effectively and appropriately is difficult and therefore might not be the most appropriate strategy for many situations. This suggests that previous lessons were either not reviewed when planning for a new situation or, worse, ignored.
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