Evaluation of the UNICEF response to the level 3 humanitarian crisis in Syria
Since the outbreak of conflict in Syria over a decade ago, UNICEF has been responding to the needs of Syrian children and their families. This report assesses UNICEF’s response inside Syria over the last four years.
In spite of an extraordinarily challenging context, the UNICEF response to the crisis in Syria, while variable across sectors and locations, has been a strong one overall. The evaluation finds that UNICEF managed to identify the right roles for itself over the evaluation period, although it has sometimes struggled (often for reasons beyond its control, including the political complexity of the context) to fulfil those roles, particularly its system-wide roles of sector coordination and leadership. In common with other agencies, it has also struggled to mount a response proportionate to the scale of needs and to monitor those needs, given often very limited direct access to communities. Despite this, the hard work and commitment of UNICEF staff and partners have helped protect millions of children across all parts of Syria from the worst effects of the crisis over the past four years. Those consulted for the evaluation noted the commitment, professionalism and expertise of UNICEF staff, the organization’s generally strong relations with other actors, including with governing authorities, local NGO partners, sister United Nations agencies and donors, and its strong reputation in the region.
The evaluation also finds that UNICEF needs to develop a more coherent approach to its work across the whole of Syria. In particular, it needs a better-defined approach to the wider humanitarian agenda in order to address the acute and pervasive threats to children’s well-being and development. While support to direct service delivery remains crucial, UNICEF should continue to demonstrate the case for more systematic and sustainable approaches to meeting needs in a context of protracted recovery, while pursuing opportunities to help strengthen child-related policy and systems. Resourcing this in the face of diminishing donor funding will require prioritization, a phased approach and greater programmatic focus, and it will require new forms of partnership and collaboration.