Humanitarian Strategies

Phuong Pham, Thomas O'Mealia, Carol Wei, Kennedy Kihangi Bindu, Anupah Makoond, and Patrick Vinck. 6/2022. “Hosting New Neighbors : Perspectives of Host Communities on Social Cohesion in Eastern DRC”. Read PublicationAbstract
Situations of forced displacement create unique challenges for social cohesion because of the major disruption of social dynamics among both displaced persons and host communities. This paper uses a sequential mixed method approach to analyze the relationship between hosting displaced persons and perceptions of social cohesion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. First, participatory research methods in focus groups empowered participants to produce a locally driven definition of social cohesion. The results from these exercises inform the quantitative assessment by dictating measurement strategies when analyzing original surveys. Combining almost 50,000 responses to 11 cross-sectional surveys between 2017 and 2021, displacement is negatively associated with perceptions of social cohesion in aggregate. But at the individual level, those who report hosting displaced populations in their communities often have higher perceptions of social cohesion. These results are strongest among respondents who self-report hosting IDPs as opposed to refugees, but important heterogeneity across indicators, local context, and gender should guide policy meant to promote social cohesion in forced displacement.
Phuong Pham, Manasi Sharma, Kennedy Kihangi Bindu, Pacifique Zikomangane, Rachel C. Nethery, Eric Nilles, and Patrick Vinck. 2/16/2022. “Protective Behaviors Associated With Gender During the 2018-2020 Ebola Outbreak in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.” JAMA Network Open. Read PublicationAbstract

Importance: In 2018 to 2020, the Democratic Republic of the Congo experienced the world’s second largest Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, killing 2290 individuals; women were disproportionately infected (57% of all cases) despite no evidence of differential biological EVD risk. Understanding how gender norms may influence exposure to EVD, intensity, and prognosis as well as personal protective behaviors against the virus is important to disease risk reduction and control interventions.

Objective: To assess whether men and women differ in personal protective behaviors (vaccine acceptance, health-seeking behaviors, physical distancing) and the mediating role of EVD information and knowledge, perceived disease risk, and social relations.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional, multistage cluster survey study of 1395 randomly selected adults was conducted in the Ebola-affected regions of North Kivu from April 20, 2019, to May 10, 2019. Path analyses were conducted using structural equation modeling to examine associations among study variables. Statistical analysis was conducted from August 2019 to May 2020.

Main Outcomes and Measures: The main behavioral outcomes of interest were (1) vaccine acceptance, (2) formal health care seeking, and (3) self-protective behaviors. The primary factor of interest was self-reported gender identity. We also assessed sociodemographic factors.

Results: Among the study’s 1395 participants, 1286 (93%) had Nande ethnicity and 698 (50%) were women; the mean (SD) age was 34.5 (13.1) years. Compared with female participants, male participants reported significantly higher levels of education, wealth, and mobile phone access. There were associations found between gender and all EVD preventive behavioral outcomes, with evidence for mediation through EVD knowledge and belief in rumors. Men reported greater EVD knowledge accuracy compared with women (mean [SE] score for men: 12.06 [0.13] vs women: 11.08 [0.16]; P < .001), and greater knowledge accuracy was associated with increases in vaccine acceptance (β = 0.37; P < .001), formal care seeking (β = 0.39; P < .001), and self-protective behaviors (β = 0.35; P < .001). Lower belief in rumors was associated with greater vaccine acceptance (β = −0.30; P < .001), and greater EVD information awareness was associated with increased adoption of self-protective behaviors (β = 0.23; P < .001).

Conclusions and Relevance: This survey study found gender differences in adopting preventive protective behaviors against EVD. These findings suggest that it is critical to design gender-sensitive communication and vaccination strategies, while engaging women and their community as a whole in any response to infectious disease outbreaks. Research on the potential link between gender and sociodemographics factors associated with disease risk and outcomes is needed.

Adrienne Fricke and Rahaf Safi. 3/2021. Window of Hope: Sustaining education of health professionals in northwest Syria.Abstract
This report is based on a comprehensive needs assessment carried out remotely by the HHI team in Syria in 2019. The OSF HESP grant was awarded to a larger project to understand the impact of humanitarian emergencies, including armed conflict, on students enrolled in medical and nursing programs. The goal is to produce a needs assessment toolkit to help support professional health care education programs during conflict. In addition to Syria, where the conflict is ongoing, the project examines Colombia, a recent post-conflict setting, and Rwanda, a developed post-conflict setting.
ATHA. 1/2006. “ATHA: Security of Humanitarian Staff”.Abstract

Humanitarian organizations operate in increasingly hostile environments. Although authoritative statistics are scarce, anecdotal evidence suggests that aid workers face life-threatening risks that are exacerbated by the growing number of humanitarian organizations operating in the field with varying mandates, without common professional security standards and with limited success with inter-agency security coordination. The ability of humanitarian organizations to fulfill their mandates in the future, will be depend in part on their individual success in improving internal security management practices and in finding ways to coordinate their efforts on building common security standards and security coordination across agencies. To meet this challenge, humanitarian organizations must implement improved security management methods and finds ways to coordinate their security operations and planning. Despite broad acceptance of the need to develop better security management and coordination, many humanitarian organizations remain ambivalent about coordinating their security activities and few have instituted robust measures for improving their own security management practices. Further, efforts to improve security management practices are hampered by a critical lack of basic empirical knowledge about the field security environment. In discussions about humanitarian staff safety and security, the least common denominator continues to be cumulative anecdotal evidence provided by the many security personnel working for humanitarian organizations in the field. This policy brief reviews the literature on humanitarian organization security management, highlighting common misconceptions about the field security environment, reviews the main structural and procedural issues impeding more effective security management, and illustrates why current initiatives to improve security management practices will remain only partial successes if they do not include a serious effort to replace anecdotal reporting on the field security environment with systematic collection and analysis of field security data. It argues that staff security requires a common professional approach based on sound security expertise adapted to meet the operational needs of humanitarian organizations. A model is developed for creating a network of security professionals responsible for guiding the design and implementation of common security standards and security information sharing protocol. 

Phuong Pham, Patrick Vinck, and Eric Stover. 6/2007. Abducted: The Lord's Resistance Army and Forced Conscription in Northern Uganda.Abstract

Since the late 1980s, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a spiritualist rebel group with no clear political agenda, has abducted tens of thousands of children and adults to serve as porters and soldiers. In the early 1990s, children who escaped from the LRA or were captured by Ugandan soldiers were often paraded in the streets in the hope that someone would identify them. This treatment prompted a group of parents of abducted children to establish the Gulu Support the Children Organization (GUSCO), a reception center in Gulu, in 1994. In December 2005, the Berkeley-Tulane Initiative on Vulnerable Populations launched The Database Project to better document abduction and help improve the capacity of 8 reception centers in the northern districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Apac, and Lira to collect and analyze information about former LRA abductees.

Bruno Demeyere. 6/2007. The Role and Responsibilities of Civil Society in International Humanitarian Law Formulation and Application.Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between the legal framework of international humanitarian law (IHL) and civil society actors operating in conflict situations. Attention is paid to assessing the manner in which the latter can play a role in strengthening the humanitarian dimension of the former. Brief introductory comments are warranted so as to situate the debate, in which non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in a conflict zone are adopted as the primary unit of analysis. IHL is the field of public international law which regulates the conduct of hostilities, namely restricting the means and methods of warfare available to parties to the conflict, and laying out protections afforded civilians and those no longer taking part in hostilities (hors de combat). State-centric in its development, the central tenets of IHL are found in the Hague Regulations of 1907, the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the two Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1977. It is the right of sovereign states to decide which treaty-based international legal obligations they adopt regarding the legal regulation of the conduct of armed conflicts, however a number of legal provisions of IHL have attained the status of customary international law, and are thus binding on all parties to the conflict. This raises questions in regards to the status of non-state actors under international humanitarian law. The legal position of such actors, which for the purpose of this paper will focus on international organizations and non-governmental organizations, warrants close examination. 

ATHA. 10/2008. ATHA: Humanitarian Policy Making for Civil-Military Coordination (CIMIC).Abstract
Interaction between civilian and military actors in complex political emergencies (CPE) continues to warrant close examination, as the scope and implications of these relationships are significantly impacting contemporary humanitarian operations. Acknowledging that such involvement between military and humanitarian bodies has been widely questioned and critiqued, this paper takes no position as to the ideal nature of the relationship; it adopts as its base for discussion situations in which the relationship is already in place. In recent years, humanitarian organizations have been criticized for the ad hoc style of interaction, as well as over the highly fragmented nature of this sector.   There are many explanations for this lack of structure and coordination, a broad discussion of which is beyond the scope of this brief.  However, this failure to collaborate in planning has implications for civil‐military coordination (CIMIC).    Policies, methods and tools to develop collaboration of an appropriate nature and character between humanitarian bodies dealing with military partnerships are vital for the success of any civil‐military undertaking.   
ATHA. 1/2008. ATHA: Humanitarian Coordination: An Overview.Abstract

A vital component of humanitarian action is the coordination among all actors involved in the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Coordination within this field allows for the most efficient, cost effective, and successful operations possible. Groups seeking access to beneficiary populations often share the same objectives in regards to addressing human need and allaying suffering, but wide variance in such principle elements as organizational structure, technical and/or geographic expertise, mission, mandate, and political interest may hinder or prevent natural coordination on the field. This brief focuses on the dynamics of humanitarian coordination in the context of humanitarian assistance, and the main elements of coordination in the field. For the purposes of this paper, coordination is defined as a “systematic utilization of policy instruments to deliver humanitarian assistance in a cohesive and effective manner.” A leading scholar in the field identifies three basic types of coordination: coordination by command, coordination through consensus and coordination by default; and the distinction between the three is important in discerning both the benefits and challenges offered by different approaches to coordination. While United Nations agencies played a central role in the systemization and institutionalization of the idea of coordination, effective coordination requires multi-sectoral and multifaceted perspectives, as well as a dual approach in which the importance of both operational and strategic coordination are recognized. The principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality are central to the provision of humanitarian assistance, and as such, warrant consideration in coordination strategies and policies. Other basic principles and elements of humanitarian coordination include strengthening the capacity of local actors, transparency and accountability, and mutual commitment and cooperation between the different actors. There are a variety of existing mechanisms designed to enhance and facilitate coordination between organizations providing assistance in a given context. These mechanisms range in function from enhancing coordination within and among groups to identifying gaps in responses as well as addressing important concerns relating to funding. While there are many challenges to implementation of coordination strategies, as well as concerns regarding the potential for increased bureaucracy in an already complex system, the benefits to coordination can be tremendous. Not only are humanitarian operations improved through the development and implementation of coordination strategies and mechanisms, but, more critically, the beneficiary population also gains from better coordinated activities. 

Patrick Vinck and Phuong Pham. 1/2010. “Outreach Evaluation: The International Criminal Court in the Central African Republic.” The International Journal of Transitional Justice.Abstract

Public information and outreach have emerged as one of the fundamental activities of transitional justice mechanisms. Their objective is to raise public awareness, knowledge and participation among affected communities. Despite this increased focus, understanding of the role, impact and effectiveness of various outreach strategies remains limited, as is understanding of communities’ knowledge, perceptions and attitudes about transitional justice mechanisms, including their expectations. The study discussed in this article was designed to evaluate International Criminal Court (ICC) outreach programs in the Central African Republic.