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Evaluation of UNICEF's Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis in Bangladesh

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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Executive summary


The magnitude and extreme speed of the latest influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh, which began on 25 August 2017, is reminiscent of the Rwandans in Tanzania and (then) Zaire in 1994 and the Kosovars in Albania and Macedonia in 1999. At an average of 20,000 refugees per day in September 2017, the 700,000 Rohingya fled to one small stretch of land and created the world’s largest and most densely populated refugee camp. Against this backdrop, local, national and international responders provided relief to the Rohingya, who had been victims of the most egregious human rights abuses in their native country, Myanmar. UNICEF responded to the newly arrived refugees with vital services, helping children and their families to survive. Committed to continually improving its work, UNICEF’s Global Emergency Coordinator for the Rohingya crisis requested an evaluation of the organization’s response.

This evaluation, which was commissioned and managed by the UNICEF Evaluation Office in New York, was conducted between March and October 2018 by five independent consultants with expertise in all programme areas under assessment, and with the support and direct involvement of staff from the Evaluation Office. Its primary purpose was to generate lessons to improve the ongoing response. The secondary purposes were to strengthen UNICEF’s accountability and to assist UNICEF and the broader international humanitarian community to better understand how to respond in situations of rapid mass and forced displacement and settlement. The team used Real-Time Evaluation Plus, a new approach that the Evaluation Office is developing that combines elements of retrospective and formative evaluations with those of a real-time evaluation in order to deliver well-evidenced findings and conclusions in a short timeframe. The primary audience is UNICEF staff at headquarters, regional, country and field office levels, and this report may also be of use to the Government of Bangladesh, donor governments, other United Nations agencies and international, national and local partners.

The analytical framework used for the evaluation combined qualitative and quantitative evidence organized around the evaluation matrix that was developed during the inception phase. The evaluation criteria included appropriateness/ relevance, timeliness, coverage, effectiveness, equity, gender and human rights. The data collection phase consisted of a) documentary review; b) key informant interviews with current and former UNICEF staff, implementing partners, sister United Nations agencies, government stakeholders and donors; c) focus group discussions with affected populations and community volunteers; and d) two online surveys for UNICEF’s sector and implementing partners. It included a mission to Cox’s Bazar, Dhaka and Kathmandu in April 2018. The team leader returned to Dhaka in June 2018 for a workshop with staff from the regional, country and field offices to discuss the preliminary findings, conclusions and recommendations.

The evaluation looks at UNICEF’s response to the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh from the end of August 2017 to the end of April, when data collection ended. The analysis of how prepared UNICEF was for this influx, however, naturally looks at an earlier period. The evaluation covers UNICEF’s preparedness, scale-up, advocacy, strategy and leadership of the sectors it is responsible for. It also assesses the strategy and implementation in all sectors in which UNICEF is working, including nutrition, health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), child protection and education. The evaluation chose to look at Communication for Development (C4D), another UNICEF priority, in the context of the agency’s work in the other five sectors, not as a standalone programme area. The evaluation also covers human resources, supply and funding functions, cross-cutting issues such as gender and inter-sectorality, as well as the quality and use of information to guide the response. It should be noted that although UNICEF’s response to the Rohingya crisis extends beyond the borders of Bangladesh to Myanmar, as per the terms of reference, the focus of this evaluation was limited to evaluating the Level 3 response, which was only declared in Bangladesh.