iMMAP: Supporting the Tigray Crisis Response with Information Management
Information is a vital component in any humanitarian response. It gives an understanding of the volume of humanitarian support required, awareness about who is doing what and where, geographic information of people in need, reachable and unreachable areas, and a lot more.
In November 2020, the conflict in Tigray erupted between the Ethiopian Armed Forces and Tigray Defense Forces (TDF). Due to the ongoing conflict, there has been a considerable number of casualties, displacement of vulnerable communities, infrastructure damage, insecurity and issues with humanitarian access.
As the information management lead, I participated in the H2H Network-funded humanitarian response in Tigray with iMMAP. I have been working with my team to overcome the challenges and obstacles in order to provide analyzed information to our humanitarian partners working in the first line response to the conflict.
To strengthen the humanitarian response in Tigray, iMMAP has been offering a variety of information management (IM) services to UN Agencies, INGOs and NGOs working across the region. On-demand services included analyzed information on the situation in Tigray and its impact on other regions, and support to needs assessment through remote primary data collection methods where information gaps were identified. iMMAP has also supported humanitarian actors responding to the Tigray crisis with the development of IM products for the management, analysis and visualization of the data that partners have been collecting.
Within 8 weeks, we provided essential support to six humanitarian actors through support in needs assessments, information analysis and production of IM products. Activities focused on providing support to OCHA with the Multi-Agency Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) in Northwest Tigray, covering the development of remote data collection forms, user manuals, training materials, quantitative and qualitative data analysis of the outcomes of the assessment, and participating in the production of the final assessment report.
The iMMAP IM team supported the Global Protection Cluster in overlaying humanitarian access maps regarding the location and demographic breakdown of Internally Displaced People(IDPs). In addition, we initiated a multi-cluster 4Ws analysis with the participation of the Food Security Cluster and Nutrition Cluster. We also supported the Education Cluster by developing Joint Education Needs Assessment (JENA) tools while developing a dashboard for the Shelter/NFI Cluster to clearly visualize their activities across the region.
Success despite challenges
The short duration of the H2H-funded Tigray project period (eight weeks) imposed serious challenges and affected the implementation of the project. In this short timeframe, we could not build long-term and sustainable commitment to our partners despite the huge need for information management services. The limited time also affected the recruitment and development of the national personnel. On the other hand, we did not have sufficient time to invest in providing capacity strengthening to potential recruits.
Another challenge was the poor infrastructure within the region. The unstable internet connection affected coordination efforts with partners and within the team itself, as some of them were working remotely. The erratic electricity in remote areas also had a massive impact on project implementation as our partners were conducting assessments in remote locations, and often, we could not receive their inputs in a timely manner.
Movement restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in severe challenges. Airports and airlines had strict measures worldwide, complicating movement and travel arrangements for international personnel. This situation was compounded with the movement restrictions in place due to the volatile security situation in the region and field visits were kept to a minimum.
Despite the challenges, we were able to reach our project targets and provide the necessary support to the various clusters we worked with across the region. As a result of the high quality IM services provided by iMMAP, other donors and partners have requested further IM support in response to the Tigray crisis.
What we learned
The project allowed us to conclude some valuable learnings regarding coordination with partners, human resources processes and improving the sustainability of the response. We learned that the short project timeframe would be better implemented through the iMMAP roster which entails a long list of IM specialists that can be deployed on short notice. This process would eliminate the need to implement the standard recruitment processes and save crucial time.
In such short- –term projects, it should be clear to all stakeholders, including partners, that the support is limited in time, so this will not create any over expectations.
We also understood the need to clarify data protection protocols so that partners can be more comfortable sharing the data they gathered during the assessment phase of the response activities. Ideally, data protection and sharing policies should be agreed upon prior to the initiation of the project implementation.
In addition, further steps need to be taken in strengthening the coordination and communication of all partners to ensure that there is good information flow to produce good quality IM products for the response.
Lastly, the sustainability of these efforts is key to ensuring targeted and informed humanitarian aid activities to the Tigray crisis. For a well-rounded response, the project timeframe needed to include the capacity strengthening of IM staff for the handover of all IM activities to ensure the smooth implementation of the ongoing response activities across the region.
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