Task Force Review
Summary of a Report by SPLM/SRRA-OLS
Bahr el Ghazal Displaced people arriving from Wau
In response to the humanitarian crisis which unfolded in Bahr El Ghazal (BEG) last year, an SPLM/SRRA - OLS task force was set up to answer the question 'why are not all of the people in need receiving any or enough food?'. The assessment findings were that the intervention was restricted and constrained by an extremely complicated set of interrelated social/anthropological, political, economic, military and humanitarian factors and that these factors combined in various ways and in varying degrees at different phases of the crisis. The task force report found that the most vulnerable groups in BEG were also the most marginalised and as a result the least likely to receive the relief food that is actually intended for them. The following is a summary of the main findings and recommendations of the task force.
The people most in need of assistance were:
- Displaced people without representation of a chief, ghol leader or some other authority figure who were being excluded from general distributions. The displaced include those displaced due to insecurity, those known as the 'C-130 invitees', who were continually traveling within the region between airstrips in the hope of receiving food, and those who move to relief centres in the hope of securing a general ration.
- Families or households with a member in a feeding centre who were being excluded from the general distribution. Reasons for this were that some community decision makers were unwilling to target this group and some did not understand that feeding centre rations were meant to be supplementary to the general ration. Some beneficiaries also lacked knowledge of their entitlement.
- Widows were also among the most marginalised and were often excluded from the distribution system
- Those at the lower end of the social hierarchy were often excluded from relief distributions. Their plight had been made worse by changing patterns of traditional coping strategies caused by years of civil war, e.g. changes in livelihood strategies, breakdown of kinship ties and changes in the representational role of traditional community leaders.
Why Not All People in Need Are Receiving Any or Enough Food
The task force found that no single factor or party can be held solely responsible for the crisis. The problems had been:
- chronic under funding that OLS had suffered since 1995
- The flight suspension imposed by the GoS at the most critical moments of the crisis and the subsequent delays in granting clearance for additional heavy lift cargo aircraft
- the clearance of only four locations on Feb 26th attracted many people in from long distances, overwhelming poorly equipped centres
- OLS agencies were late in their capacity to respond to the rapidly deteriorating situation. Reasons include lack of contingency planning by OLS and their underestimation of the total number of people in need as it relied on their own limited assessment and distribution coverage to make projections
- the Relief Committee and/or Chief distribution systems did not cope with distributing a limited number of resources during the period of dramatically increasing and wide spread need
- the practice of redistributing relief food equally among the majority of the population by Chiefs and local communities so that the most needy got less than intended
- the lack of accurate and/or agreed population figures. OLS agencies and the SPLM/SRRA were constantly disputing each others population figures, making coordinated and joint planning very difficult
- application of a modified version of the traditional and socially accepted practice 'tayeen' (a contribution by the community to the government which includes the army) of relief food
- problems with law and order and military discipline leading to chaos at distribution sites and many beneficiaries being robbed of their relief food.
Child picking up grains from the dropsite in Koch, upper Nile
The task force report made many recommendations to assist in ending the crisis. Each recommendation was matched with the actor it believed should initiate the action. In view of the large number of recommendations made in this report, only a few examples are given here.
- The SPLM/A must increase the amount of attention and resources given to issues of law and order in areas where OLS and independent NGOs are operating.
- The lack of programme co-ordination presence in the field severely hampered UNICEF's ability to coordinate and assess the situation and to carry out its functions as the southern sector lead agency. UNICEF must therefore fully re-introduce the Regional Programme officer positions
- There is a need for collaboration between the NGOs and UNICEF to review the quality of existing feeding centres within the region of BEG. UNICEF should develop more flexible protocols for feeding centres but with clearly defined minimum standards.
- A Joint OLS/SRRA population survey/registration is essential for future planning and implementation activities.
- A review of community perceptions of targeting and distribution systems must take place as soon as possible. This should include SRRA/WFP/ UNICEF/relevant NGOs and should be facilitated by an external consultant who has a broad background in distribution methodologies and no vested interest in any one particular methodology.
Finally, the report highlighted the many steps already taken by agencies to improve matters and expressed appreciation for the courage and initiative taken by the SPLM, SRRA and OLS agencies to open themselves up to critical examination of the complex issues pertaining to why people in need in BEG were not getting any or enough food.
SPLM/SRRA - OLS Joint Targeting and Vulnerability Task Force in SPLM Controlled Areas of Bahr el Ghazal: August 27th 1998 - Executive Summary
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Reference this page
Task Force Review. Field Exchange 6, February 1999. p27. www.ennonline.net/fex/6/task