Community Consultations on Humanitarian Aid: Overall Findings

from World Humanitarian Summit
Published on 13 May 2016 View Original


In preparation for the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), the WHS secretariat commissioned Ipsos to conduct community consultations with crisis-affected communities in multiple focus countries. The countries chosen for the consultations were Afghanistan, Guinea, South Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine, representing a diverse range of geographic regions, humanitarian contexts, and actors.

Ipsos conducted semi-structured interviews and community workshops in each country to gain in-depth information on how affected communities respond to crises, the role they see for international humanitarian responders, issues related to service delivery, and ways to improve identified shortcomings within the humanitarian system.

This complements the consultations with crisis-affected communities and stakeholder groups which took place in previous years and which were synthesized in the report, “Restoring Humanity: Global Voices Calling for Action.” This report highlighted the importance of involving marginalized populations such as women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and displaced persons, and focusing on security, dignity, and economic opportunity, emphasizing:

People’s safety and dignity must be considered the primary aim of humanitarian activity, regardless of the context or actor.

The “Restoring Humanity” report draws on several priority themes that are critical in ensuring that people’s safety and dignity remain the primary aim of the global humanitarian aid system: Put People First: Adapt to Context; Build Diverse Partnerships; and Guarantee Reliable Finance.

In this report these are reflected in the following chapters:

  1. Key needs and priorities;

  2. Livelihoods and employment;

  3. Security and personal safety;

  4. Social cohesion;

  5. Gender;

  6. The challenges of accessing assistance;

  7. The role of organizations; and,

  8. Information needs and communication channels.

The community consultations conducted by Ipsos seek to create a greater understanding of these priority themes through amplifying the voices of those who have most at stake in maximizing the effectiveness of humanitarian programs.

Summary of Findings

Global crises have resulted in tremendous upheavals for the communities at their center, often leading large populations to seek refuge in other parts of the country or to other countries altogether. Those who have become refugees or who have been internally displaced require basic necessities to survive and begin their lives in a new place. Those who have remained in their original communities face deprivation and a lack of opportunities. Thus, food, shelter, and medical care are generally the key needs for most of the communities studied in this report.

Additionally, people want the opportunity for themselves and their communities to become more self-sufficient. This is mostly reflected in the need for access to employment and financial assistance. While these needs exist across all countries, the context often differs. For Syrian refugees in Jordan, the importance of financial assistance and employment is connected to their need to start a new life, particularly as they are uncertain as to when, if ever, they can return to Syria. For those in Afghanistan and South Sudan, these needs relate to the overall lack of opportunity and development in their country. In Guinea, they reflect the goal of making communities more self-sufficient and improving cohesion following the Ebola crisis. And, in Ukraine, these needs are particularly important for vulnerable groups like IDPs and older, unemployed workers, who have found their lives and livelihoods destabilized by the conflict in their country with little hope of finding work.

As a result of prolonged armed conflict, the majority of people have experienced the loss of loved ones, the loss of homes and livelihoods, and continue to fear that they will not be able to protect themselves and their families. Thus, security and personal safety are key priorities for those living in conflict-afflicted areas, namely Syrians in Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Ukraine, who understand that many of their other needs cannot be met until their basic security needs are met.

Where crises have forced communities to interact differently with people, whether they have had to leave their homes and seek refuge elsewhere, or whether they have had to re-integrate after experiencing some sort of trauma, the issue of social cohesion becomes relevant. This is borne out mainly in findings from Syrian refugees in Jordan, IDPs in Ukraine and Ebola survivors in Guinea — each group encountering growing hostility from their host communities, mainly in the areas of employment, housing, and education, creating more difficulty as they try to rebuild their lives.

Women often assume new and non-traditional roles during a humanitarian crisis which can enhance women’s status and influence, but may also increase the burden on women of looking after their families. Among Syrian refugees in Jordan, shifting gender roles and the lack of close social networks have added tension to already-strained family dynamics. In Afghanistan and South Sudan, deprivations that are prevalent throughout society are particularly pronounced for women. In Guinea, the role of educating and caring for family members falls to women, increasing their responsibilities and needs in the wake of Ebola. In Ukraine, where there was generally gender parity in the findings, some emphasized women’s increased ability to weather economic hardships.

Even in cases where assistance is available, it is difficult for many people in crisis-impacted areas to access this assistance, due to a number of barriers. Corruption (on the part of the government and/or the organizations providing aid) was a key concern across all countries. Other barriers include location of assistance distribution for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Syrians in Syria, and South Sudan, and lack of information was the primary problem in Ukraine.

People’s experiences receiving assistance from different sources — and their perception of the helpfulness of such assistance — impact their views on who should take responsibility for providing assistance in the future. In general, international organizations are more trusted, while local organizations despite widespread perceptions of corruption and ineffectiveness, are considered to have more in-depth knowledge of local contexts and needs.

Perceptions of who should take responsibility are generally correlated with the experience of receiving assistance. Syrian refugees in Jordan and those in South Sudan overwhelmingly received aid from the UN, resulting in practically all respondents from those countries wanting the UN to take responsibility for providing assistance. Those in Afghanistan received assistance from both the UN and their national government, leading them to view both entities as responsible for future assistance. In Syria, where the primary (and often only) source of assistance was the Red Crescent, most wanted that organization to also be responsible for future assistance. There are two exceptions to this correlation. In Guinea, the desire for future self-sufficiency results in respondents wanting the government to take the most responsibility, despite a higher rate of receiving aid from the UN. In Ukraine, despite most assistance being provided by family and friends and international organizations, most want the government to take responsibility, with reinforcement from international organizations.

People in crisis-afflicted communities use a wide range of sources to find out information about receiving assistance, though the efficacy of these sources often varies. Across all countries, the importance of accurate, timely information about receiving assistance — which can reach all sectors of the population — is emphasized. The types of sources which are used — and found useful – depend on the context within the country. While many Syrian refugees in Jordan have access to television and the internet, they often found word-of-mouth sources useful in the face of complicated, often contradictory information about receiving assistance. In places with lower levels of connectivity like Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Guinea, traditional sources such as community leaders, religious leaders, and friends and family are commonly used. Those in Ukraine who have greater rates of access to the Internet — are able to utilize social media to gain and share information, which is important given many Ukrainians’ distrust of official sources.