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From the Editor

Approximately two year after the outbreak of civil war in Syria in April 2011, the ENN decided to compile a special issue of Field Exchange on the humanitarian response to the crisis that unfolded. This decision was based on the fact that there was (and remain) a number of unique features of this ongoing regional emergency and it presented an important opportunity to capture programming experiences and learning. In particular, the massive and unprecedented scale of need amongst those displaced in Syria (there are now over 9 million displaced Syrians and it is the biggest refugee crisis faced by UNHCR in its 64 year history) combined with the generosity of host governments and the donor community (including many non-traditional donors) in meeting needs; the programming challenges of remote management in conflict affected Syria and of serving the needs of non-camp populations in refugee hosting countries (the vast majority of refugees are not in camps); the substantial impact of the refugee population on host populations, and the unprecedented scale of cash and voucher programmes being employed in the region. At the outset of compiling this special issue, it was not clear to the ENN what, if any, nutritional challenges were being faced. This only began to emerge as we engaged with key actors and undertook a number of country visits. The ENN views article that accompanies this editorial is an attempt to set out the nutrition challenges of this crisis and emerging issues as we see them. 

The ENN began the process of compiling this special issue a year ago, conducting over 100 telephone interviews (at headquarters, regional and country level) with agencies working in the region (UN, INGOs, NGOs, donors and research groups) in order to obtain agency briefings, hear programming experiences and scope out potential areas of interest for field articles. At the outset, in September 2013, ENN met with staff in UNHCR, IFRC, ICRC and OCHA in Geneva who provided overviews of their respective agency responses in the region and helped identify key issues to highlight in the edition. Three ENN Technical Directors then visited the region in March/April 2014 to meet with 45 country offices in Jordan, Lebanon and southern Turkey, interviewing more than 60 staff involved in the response. Efforts to conduct a short trip to Damascus proved unsuccessful given the security situation. Field visits, facilitated by WFP, Save the Children Jordan, IOCC and UNHCR, were conducted to see programmes first hand. On return to the UK, the ENN team continued to work closely with authors to develop and finalise articles and met again with Geneva based agencies in July 2014, to share the essence of our observations now reflected in the ENN views piece (see page 2).  

It is important to note that we reflect the experiences of the ‘traditional’ humanitarian community; it proved too challenging (this time) to capture experiences from the immense non-traditional1 humanitarian community that has responded to this crisis, including several important non-traditional donors and a large number of faith-based organisations. Many of these organisations/institutions have not been part of the formal coordination structures established as a response to this emergency and this is one of the reasons why we found it difficult to engage with and capture the programming experiences of these entities. By all accounts, the humanitarian response of the Syrian community – at home and abroad - has been huge,

The outcome of these efforts is in effect a triple edition of Field Exchange comprising 35 field articles (plus four postscripts), nine views pieces, one research article, on evaluation, one news piece and three agency profiles. The unprecedented number of articles generated has meant that for practical and cost purposes, we have produced it in two forms: a full online edition (available at www.ennonline.net/fex) and this smaller print edition.For print, we have selected programme-oriented articles informed by considerations of geographic spread, range of sectors and ‘richness’ of learning. The online edition will feature on the UNHCR Syria response interagency information sharing portal, the ‘go to’ online destination for programmers in the region.2

A number of field articles have fallen by the wayside, largely as agencies came to view the material as ‘too sensitive’ for publication. Although disappointing, some of the authors have stated that the process of writing the article was useful for internal lesson learning even though the material cannot be disseminated more widely. There is also material in this special issue that has been written anonymously to protect the interest of agencies, as well as articles where the authors have purposively omitted or steered clear of information which could jeopardising future programming.  

The fifty-four articles in this special issue provide a truly unique overview of programming experiences in the region, as well as insights into the institutional architecture and challenges involved in supporting programming. If you can, we encourage you to access the ‘bonus’ content online. The field articles cover a wide range of programming experiences in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, southern Turkey (both cross-border into Syria and refugee programming within Turkey) and Iraq.  A number of articles describe programmes for scaling up the treatment of acute malnutrition and support for infant and young child feeding (IYCF) in Jordan and Lebanon. There are several articles on the food voucher programmes implemented by WFP in the region. Cash has largely replaced general food distributions in the regional response apart from in Syria itself. Cash has also been used to support access to other critical needs, such as health care, shelter and livelihoods, with these ‘nutrition-sensitive’ programmes implemented by a variety of UN and INGOs. We have also broadened our horizons to feature articles from agencies specialising in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), shelter, and gender based violence related programming that touch on nutrition. Two articles were ‘commissioned’ by the ENN – one explores the legal basis for military involvement on humanitarian grounds in Syria, a pro bono piece of work by an international barrister, Natasha Harrington, enabled by A4ID3. The second article is an anthropological review of the nutrition-related social aspects of the refugee experience in Jordan, which involved a month of field work by two anthropologists and an ENN volunteer. There are also a number of cross-cutting features in articles, such as coordination mechanisms, information management and challenges of remote programme management in Syria.  What all these articles have in common is that they provide a rich font for learning. The accompanying ENN views piece attempts to synthesise key themes emerging and lessons learned with respect to nutrition programming and response.  

Throughout this process, we have been genuinely struck by the incredible engagement of humanitarian staff with us to candidly share and write their stories, typically in ‘out of office’ time in evenings, weekends and whilst on leave, The authors remained eminently patient with our nagging for final drafts. All the agencies were incredibly supportive of our country visits. We extend a huge thanks to all.  

We hope you find this special publication of Field Exchange to be useful for your work and an enjoyable read. We welcome feedback including letters to the editors (contacts below).

Jeremy Shoham & Marie McGrath

Field Exchange Editors

Contact: marie@ennonline.net

 

Show footnotes

1For want of a better term, non-traditional humanitarian actors are those operating outside the ‘traditional’ UN agencies and NGOs effort and includes Arab donors, local NGOs, Syrian diaspora and businesses.

2 http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

3 http://a4id.org/

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Reference this page

Jeremy Shoham, Marie McGrath and Carmel Dolan (2014). From the Editor. Field Exchange 48, November 2014. p1. www.ennonline.net/fex/48/fromtheeditor