Humanitarian systems can respond more appropriately if they understand and acknowledge the multiple and different ways in which people and communities experience shocks. Understanding the needs of different groups of people also helps support decisions on the timing and sequencing of humanitarian assistance as well as appropriate response modalities, and gets aid to where it is needed most. This approach is referred to as intersectoral analysis.
Everyone experiences crisis differently
Devastated by 40 years of war, recurrent natural disasters, chronic poverty, drought and COVID-19, Afghanistan was already suffering one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises before the sharp increase in hostilities during mid-2021. As the Taliban made rapid territorial gains, widespread displacement, the destruction of homes, health facilities and schools, and a roll back of fundamental rights resulted in restricted access to services, particularly for women and girls. By 15 August, when the Taliban took control of the capital, Kabul, nearly half of the population needed humanitarian and protection assistance.
As humanitarian conditions deteriorated, no one in Afghanistan experienced the crisis in the same way. Differences in age, gender, disability, socioeconomic situations, living conditions, physical and mental well-being, and coping mechanisms determined each person’s specific needs and coping abilities. At the same time, when different needs overlapped, their impacts were often magnified: without safe shelter, physical and mental health conditions were exacerbated; without safe access to schools, education stalled; without water, food provision and hygiene were compromised.
This example illustrates how humanitarians identify needs: start with an overview of the context, then analyse the shock or stressors and their immediate impacts and consequences on the population’s humanitarian conditions. Then, as granularly as possible, disaggregated by age, gender and diversity characteristics.
The first iteration of the Joint Intersectoral Analysis Framework (JIAF) was introduced for the 2020 HPC. One year on, humanitarian actors are coming together with a common aspiration: to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian action. From CAR to Colombia, Yemen to Ukraine, South Sudan to Syria, and in dozens of crises around the globe, a robust, more people-centred joined-up analysis of people’s needs is taking place.
In 2021, 25 country teams continued to advance joint analysis, delivering on the promise of enhanced quality HNOs and more strategic HRPs through evidence-based needs assessments. Based on country office feedback, revised and strengthened JIAF guidance was released to help humanitarian communities work towards a more holistic and intersectoral analysis.
Country teams have found new ways to provide a contextually rich overview of people most vulnerable, where they live and the complex multiplicity of needs they face. Local communities are now more actively engaged, bringing their unique perspectives into HNOs. In some countries, peace and development actors are also coming to the table to discuss the immediate, underlying and root causes of crises with humanitarians.
Promising practices and emerging trends from the field
In CAR, the JIAF was guided by a comprehensive community consultation and participation strategy in 2021. Affected populations participated in the analysis dialogue through household and individual interviews, focus groups and open community dialogues. Children were directly consulted on their situation, their perspectives and the protection risks they face. During community dialogues, community members’ recommendations were presented. A similar process took place in Burundi, where local actors participated throughout the JIAF process.
In Afghanistan, the country team used the JIAF as the basis for understanding the depth of needs and vulnerabilities and plan for a more comprehensive set of assistance packages – in terms of volume, duration and quality. The Afghanistan example illustrates how joining forces and bringing different perspectives can enrich the overview of people’s needs and help plan a comprehensive response.
Looking towards the future
The humanitarian community, including UN organizations, cluster leads and participants, NGOs and donors, is committed to joint intersectoral analysis. To meet this commitment with rigor and transparency, an independent expert review of the methodology took place in 2021. Its findings and recommendations are guiding further refinement and enhancement of the methodology, its guidance and supporting tools.
The JIAF will continue to be strengthened year on year. It will require continued commitment and engagement from the whole humanitarian community to consolidate the promising gains achieved so far towards a credible, transparent analysis that truly helps us deliver better.