Somalia + 3 more

The Somali Shelter/NFI Cluster: Reviews of coordination and response Combined report (April 2015)


Executive summary

This report was commissioned by UNHCR’s Shelter and Settlements Section (SSS).
It combines the findings of two separate evaluations undertaken in Somalia in the latter half of 2014:

  1. Shelter response

  2. Shelter cluster coordination

An external consultant was contracted to undertake the review of coordination.
REACH, a global cluster partner, undertook the evaluation of shelter response. The aim of the combined report is to identify lessons, good practice and recommendations, and to contribute to the global shelter cluster’s evaluation guide.

The review of coordination covered the period from August 2006 when the Shelter Cluster first began work in Somalia until September 2014. The response review considered emergency shelter response at Mogadishu, transitional shelter at Bosaso, and permanent shelter at Galkayo.
Evaluation methods comprised document review, inception reports, field visits, key informant interviews, household surveys involving over 2,300 households (response only), and community discussions (response only).

Both evaluation teams encountered constraints. Little documentation on the cluster’s lengthy deployment was available in Geneva. Most documents used in the coordination review were sourced via web search throughout the evaluation and requests to individual informants. Logistical and security considerations required revision of the original coordination review work plan. Security considerations restricted access by UNHCR’s external consultant, a UK national, and REACH’s evaluation manager, a US national, to Mogadishu. National and international staff of REACH therefore undertook enumerator training in Mogadishu, Bosaso and Galkayo. Shelter Cluster partners came to Mogadishu airport for meetings with the coordination evaluator.

Somalia was one of four countries in which clusters were piloted, a year after the humanitarian reform process of 2005. By 2006, civil war in Somalia had been underway for at least fifteen years. Up to 400,000 people had been internally displaced: thousands had fled the capital, Mogadishu, to escape fighting between the Islamic Courts Union and US-backed Ethiopian troops; thousands more were made homeless that year by floods.

Large parts of Somalia, particularly the south-central region, remained off-limits to humanitarian agencies. As in other cluster pilot countries, the failure of humanitarian assistance had been marked. Humanitarian aid in Somalia was seen as compromised by links to humanitarian intervention and the interests of global and regional powers. By 2006 the UN considered that the situation of IDPs had fallen far below the most basic of standards in refugee camps.

UNHCR is the Shelter Cluster’s co-lead at global level. In Somalia, UNHCR and UNHabitat jointly led the Shelter Cluster, a then innovative arrangement which capitalised on the agencies’ expertise in emergency and permanent shelter and their many years’ experience in Somalia. The Shelter Cluster’s earliest focus was the accessible areas of northern Puntland and Hargeisa. In Puntland and Somaliland the Shelter Cluster benefited from the input of its first partners, DRC, NRC, UN-Habitat,
UNHCR, and UNICEF. Bosaso, in particular, was seen as an early model of what clusters could achieve.

A real-time evaluation by UNHCR in 2007 recommended that the agency increase cluster staffing. Recommendations to all clusters in IASC’s 2007 evaluation of the new cluster approach emphasised the need for lead agencies to institutionalise their commitment and recruit dedicated staff with coordination and information management skills. These recommendations chimed with UNHCR’s stated policy on cluster mainstreaming. Nevertheless, and despite a direct appeal in 2008 from Somalia’s Humanitarian Coordinator, UNHCR did not appoint a dedicated Shelter Cluster coordinator until 2010.

Since then, successive coordinators, based in UNHCR’s Somalia country office in Nairobi, have established the Shelter Cluster at national and regional level, building good relationships with cluster partners, UNHCR colleagues and other clusters. The appointment of full-time staff has been accompanied by an increase in the number and diversity of active partners. In 2006, the Somalia Shelter Cluster had 5 international partners, in 2012 10 partners, both local and international. In 2014, the cluster contact list numbered approximately 80 NGOs, Red Cross and UN agencies of which approximately 20 were considered active partners.

Partners have increasingly contributed to coordination. Before the appointment of a dedicated cluster coordinator, programme staff of UNHCR or UN-Habitat chaired coordination meetings in Somaliland, Puntland, Galkayo and Mogadishu. The first full-time Shelter Cluster coordinator appointed a local NGO, DFI, to act as focal point at Gedo in southern Somalia. His successor has worked with national and international partners to second Somali-speaking staff to ten regional hubs. By 2014 regional staff of ARC, DFI, DRC, NRC, UN-Habitat and UNHCR were acting as parttime regional cluster coordinators.

In order to enhance regional capacity, the cluster secretariat, working with the Protection Cluster, organised residential workshops for regional coordinators in Garowe and Hargeisa in 2013 and 2014. This is good practice. Nevertheless, the Somalia Shelter Cluster is likely to need more staff if it is consistently to support a larger number of regional hubs which operate with part-time coordinators in difficult and demanding circumstances. An internal review of the cluster’s regionalisation is recommended, in line with a proposal by the global focal point for coordination.

The first dedicated coordinator was assisted by one full-time support officer in Nairobi and another in Mogadishu: the latter, appointed in 2012, is now the longest-serving member of the Shelter Cluster’s Somalia staff. By late 2014 the secretariat had the equivalent of four full-time staff. However, staff in support roles are employed on short-term contracts or as unpaid interns and this has led to frequent gaps and turnover.

Partners appreciate the role of cluster staff in supporting service delivery through coordination meetings, the SAG, the Cluster Review Committee and the Sustainable Shelter Solutions Working Group (SSWG). They see the secretariat as highly innovative, committed and hard working. The cluster coordinator frequently visits Mogadishu but there remains a perception that major decisions are made solely in Nairobi at meetings where relevant Somali government and Somali-based NGO representatives cannot be present. A deputy coordinator role would go some way to addressing this perception as well as providing support for regional hubs. Holding alternate quarterly or SSWG meetings in Mogadishu would also help raise the profile and status of the Shelter Cluster in Somalia.
Successive coordinators and support staff have struggled to maintain and rationalise website information. The plethora of websites and the difficulties of managing them are systemic issues. Nevertheless, should be the Somalia Shelter Cluster’s main website. The appointment in 2014 of the cluster’s first information manager is an opportunity to prioritise website maintenance and improvement.

The 2012 Strategic Operational Framework reflects the need for flexibility and for the options of emergency shelter, transitional shelter and durable solutions throughout Somalia. The cluster has tried to harmonise approaches rather than set standards which, experience has shown, are unlikely to be met. This is due in part to the huge programme area, the range of climates, lack of access and varying levels of government support. In addition, chronic under-funding and the summary eviction of IDPs by private and government landlords can put partners in an invidious position, forced to choose between the quantity and quality of shelter and settlement provision.

REACH’s findings indicate that shelter – whether emergency, transitional or permanent - by cluster partners has been of better quality than previously supplied and better quality than that supplied by non-partners. It has met with high levels of beneficiary satisfaction. It leaves a majority feeling safer - at least inside individual shelters. However, settlement design, communal latrines and market areas have also contributed to feelings of insecurity outside individual shelters and this requires work with the Protection and WASH clusters. The use of contractor-driven approaches in large-scale response or to promote integration between displaced and host communities has left IDPs less well equipped to maintain, repair or extend shelter or to gain livelihood skills.

The mix of shelter options remains valid but a revised framework and contingency plan are overdue. By late 2014 the cluster had, with assistance from REACH, developed a shelter monitoring and evaluation framework and indicators. This, together with the follow-up of strategic topics addressed by the SSWG, will assist the cluster in revising strategy and bringing it up to date.

Revised strategy should specifically reference Sphere and other issues, standards and indicators that the cluster wishes to highlight. GenCap was active in Somalia from 2007 and the cluster strategy emphasises the need for consultation with women. Early monitoring found that security and protection from violence, including gender-based violence, were shelter beneficiaries’ biggest concerns. This finding has informed the continuing use of CGI in transitional shelters and the inclusion of lockable doors in CGI shelters and buuls. Successive coordinators have hired female cluster support officers in both Nairobi and Mogadishu. In 2012, the Nairobi Cluster Support Officer and partner agency Save Somali Women and Children developed a standard “Women’s Dignity Kit.” Some cluster assessment and monitoring has disaggregated data by gender, for example, the transitional shelter assessment at Bosaso in 2011. In 2014, however, the cluster’s settlement infrastructure mapping reports from Bosaso and other locations did not disaggregate data by gender or age and REACH too found it hard to recruit female enumerators. The cluster should do more to promote consistent attention to the full range of IASC cross-cutting issues. They should be explicitly included in the Strategic Operational Framework, coordination workshops and joint exercises. Global cluster tools and showcasing work by individual partners can assist. Accountability to affected people could be similarly highlighted and feedback ‘loops’ to groups surveyed added to the current assessment and settlement mapping exercises.

Informants were uniformly appreciative of the Somalia Shelter Cluster’s role in developing and promoting mobile phone technology. In 2013 the Shelter Cluster began working on this with the Nairobi-based firm mFieldwork which in turn has built on experience from NRC in Somalia. A pilot project has addressed joint information management, assessment, monitoring and settlement mapping. Some partners have used the cluster’s digital platform for their own assessments. The Shelter Cluster has also reached out to other clusters, including the Protection Cluster, to involve and assist them in joint assessments. The technology is seen as simple and quick to use by relatively small teams. This work has potential in other contexts and would repay evaluation by the global shelter cluster to test costs, benefits and sustainability, particularly among local NGOs.

Regular reporting from Nairobi and more frequent management visits and follow-up from Geneva would help the SSS understand the Somalia cluster’s complex working environment and the security issues that daily confront partners and the secretariat. It would also contribute to learning by UNHCR and the global cluster. The small secretariat would benefit from global support for local and international advocacy because any humanitarian achievements in Somalia are dwarfed by the massive unmet need. In October 2014, the funding gap was greatest in the shelter and NFI sector where less than 7 per cent of CAP needs were met and less than half those in need of shelter and NFI assisted by cluster partners. Informants cited advocacy with donors and local government as areas in which the cluster could do more.

Independently of the cluster, some of its partners have sought to draw attention to funding needs as famine again threatens Somalia.

The Shelter Cluster’s achievements in Somalia have been made despite frequent staffing gaps and turnover in the small secretariat and despite the constant search by successive coordinators for funding. UNHCR’s present country representative is supportive of the Shelter Cluster, as evidenced by funds for staffing and for information management initiatives. However, the pattern of funding since deployment has been inconsistent with the predictable leadership and appropriate staffing levels UNHCR promised for its new coordination mandate. UNHCR needs to consolidate the secretariat’s impressive achievements since 2010 and conduct a budget review to ensure appropriate staffing and ring-fenced resources for the cluster and its activities.