Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the Coventry University's online course, Community Preparedness, Recovery and Resilience: An Introduction. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds South Sudan is a country which has been suffering from humanitarian crisis for four decades now in a country of about ten million people there’s about seven million who are in need of assistance, about two million of those people are internally displaced IDPs, there’s about two million people who have fled the country are refugees in neighboring countries. So, it’s a huge, huge humanitarian need and in a context where government infrastructure is very poor, the health service isn’t really working, education services, transport communications, the whole thing is very problematic, so it is very hard for for people to cope in that situation.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 seconds But they’ve have been, of course, coping one way or the other over many decades, so they have possibilities and are managing but with great difficulty. The IOM which is The International Organization for Migration would be working in Sudan for many years and one of their key priorities, worldwide, is around supporting resilience of affected people.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 seconds I was asked to come out and work with their shelter and NFI team which is the shelter and non-food items to help develop an approach to resilience that meant looking at situations people were living in, some people were in so-called protection of civilian sites which were like in sites for internally displaced people and these were initially ad-hoc sites where people had fled often around a UN mission where there was some UN military so they felt somewhat safe from the attacks that were all over the country really and these protection of civilian sites some of them were very big with tens of thousands of people in them, and I and the IOM shelter team we’re working there, helping people have the right sort of shelter and they were looking at how initially this shelter program could be more resilient because the situation they were working in is very much a long-established situation of a UN coordinated approach with all the different sectors which has its own great strengths in terms of providing life-saving assistance.

Skip to 2 minutes and 31 seconds One of the issues that people were concerned about within that system was that while it’s good at life-saving assistance, it’s not so good at helping people as let’s say recover and begin to take control of their lives and build back better later on. We began to say well actually what matters is not so much resilience of shelter but the resilience of people in South Sudan and how people cope with the risks they face. If you’re a woman in South Sudan, for example having to fetch firewood and bring it back to the camp you’re worried about being attacked, you were worried about gender-based violence. If you’re a young man you’re obviously worried about being taken off to fight in armed groups.

Skip to 3 minutes and 13 seconds If you’re in the camp you’re worried about things to do with disease, to do with malaria, all of these things which are hard to cope with. But the risk-informed approach is really about saying, okay what are the real risks that each person and each person has different risks, old people, young people, women, men have different types of risks depending on where they are, different ethnicities if you’re from one part of the country and you’re now in another part of the country.

Skip to 3 minutes and 37 seconds So, in order to look at those risks and be able to deal with them you have to again have a people centered approach where you’re looking with each individual at the whole range of risks they face and then the challenge is to link that form of assessment with the cluster approach of the humanitarian system.

Skip to 4 minutes and 2 seconds I think the issue, the real issue is about being in the shoes of the person who is coping with the situation in front of them and understanding the full range of risks they face and what are their priority risks. Because people who are working like myself I’ve been working as a practitioner for many years and, you know, if you’re in water supply as an engineer, the answer must be water or if you’re in shelter, the answer must be shelter.

Skip to 4 minutes and 28 seconds But what people may be looking for may be somewhat different and people in South Sudan had a long experience of dealing with humanitarian agencies, they knew how the system worked - they often knew how the system worked better than some of the humanitarian aid workers who were maybe just on short contracts. So, if the shelter NFI team came to do an assessment, people knew it’s the shelter NFI team, therefore, we must ask them for shelter materials and they will hopefully give it to us. As people actually didn’t really want the materials but they knew they could get them and they could sell them to get money to buy the things they really needed.

Skip to 5 minutes and 11 seconds We need to change our mindset, so we see things more from the perspective of affected people. Once you’re working in an organisation, it’s very easy to take the organisational mindset and then you need to shift yourself into the shoes of affected people or better still work with effective people, in terms of working out what their real needs are.

Skip to 5 minutes and 37 seconds Looking at it, not just as victims who have needs, but as people who are coping and have capacities. Now we can see that people are not just victims, that they are thinking about the future and with a bit of encouragement they can think and plan more, especially if they know they’ll get the support they actually really need to do the things they want to do, not just what they think they can get from the system. So that was a key part of that journey that was setting yourself to think about what then became people-centered, much more people-centered and risk-informed approach.

A people-centred, risk-informed approach to resilience

Watch the video with Bobby Lambert, founder of the Irish charity The Shamrock Appeal and a consultant in humanitarian affairs with experience working with African communities. He discusses the situation in South Sudan and the methodology that he has used to improve resilience within communities there.

His work with the Shelter and Non Food Items Team from the International Office for Migration (IOM) helped to develop a new approach to resilience.

The IOM wanted to review how the shelter program could be made more resilient and help people recover from crisis situations.

His approach identifies the real risks that people within a community face. This is done by taking a people centred approach to discover the challenges that people face.

Your task

Comment on how a people-centred, community-led, risk-informed approach might be implemented in practice.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Community Preparedness, Recovery and Resilience: An Introduction

Coventry University