Anatomy of an activation - the fund in DR Congo

In August, the H2H Network activated its fund to support members providing services to responders of the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

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The decision to activate the fund for a protracted crisis in a conflict zone was not taken lightly. How could we come in as a small fund –  a year into the response – and actually move the needle in the epidemic that so many have been working so hard to contain?

As we work to define the network’s role in response and to advocate for the concept of humanitarian-to-humanitarian services, we start with the premise that our members’ humanitarian services, and the fund we manage for them, are not a ‘fix all’. We are not interested in replacing systems that work or, maybe worse, duplicating efforts that are beginning to work successfully.

This premise weighed heavily in July when we began assessing a possible activation in DR Congo. We began the review of need for services by speaking to a number of members familiar with the response and with our fund’s current sole contributor, DFID, which has been active in north Kivu for over a year. As a sketch of the situation began to emerge, we filled it in by interviewing well-informed social scientists from Anthrologica and UNICEF, experts from Centers for Disease Control, IFRC, World Health Organization, MSF and UNOCHA, as well as three NGOs that have been working in the north Kivu region far longer and could provide a pre- and post-Ebola perspective.

Throughout the process, we continued to keep the membership informed and weigh their feedback. We developed, revised and further refined a problem tree (below) to assess gaps. Finally, in early August, we activated the fund, asking for projects that would build a package of support to help the response reach and treat more people. The projects would need to address one or both of the package’s main objectives:

·       To help increase the level of trust community members have in the response

·       To help improve coordination, information management and sharing

We were looking for projects that would strengthen the work in trust, community building, and information management/sharing that was already underway. We wanted members to propose services and skills from their dedicated areas of expertise that would incrementally shift the response in areas of trust and information management/sharing. And we wanted projects that were cross-cutting so that the wealth of experience and independent skills resident among our members would benefit all parts of the response, from the commissions in Goma to the sub coordination units, international NGOs to regional and local NGOs.

After review of 11 submitted projects, and discussions with the network’s core team, the grant team chose five projects for the service package. Three of the funded projects are focused in community engagement and accountability in support of the overall objective to increase trust. The New Humanitarian is reporting independently from the field, looking at all aspects of the response and, especially the perspective of residents in the affected areas. Internews is contributing its skills in evaluating rumours and community feedback to make sure immediate and long-term concerns are being met. Meanwhile, Translators without Borders, the only international NGO focused on language, is supporting efforts to better communicate in local languages by creating language tools, guides and trainings for workers at all levels of the response, conducting language assessments and translating data collection tools to make sure all voices are heard.

Information management was the focus of the other two agencies funded within the response. Insecurity Insight produces reports in English and French on security incidents throughout the impacted region; an example in English is here, and in French here. These reports draw upon information from reports from a number of local and international sources. The intent is for them to be widely available, not just at international level, but at local and field level and with agencies that might not have strong security teams.

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team are looking at information within treatment centers and how, if it is collected systematically, it could better support contact tracing. The team is working with Médecins Sans Frontières in Bunia, looking to test an electronic medical records tool that, in addition to local functionality for staff and patients, should integrate with national systems in order to improve tracing.

The full services within the package, as well as those being provided by other network members in the field, can be found on the network’s service package matrix. If you are in the field, you can reach out to the contacts directly to learn more or get help.

We are early in the activation of the package. I have just arrived in Goma, and it is unclear whether we will make an impact, incremental or greater. The question as to whether a collective package of humanitarian-to-humanitarian services can ‘move the needle’ in a protracted crisis is not yet answered. Check back in another few weeks to see what we have found.

Problem Tree – Assessment for services to support DRC Congo Ebola response

Go to the profile of Rebecca Petras

Rebecca Petras

Humanitarian and Policy Adviser, H2H Network

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