SUCCESS STORY: ACTED – Being efficient by working together

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ACTED and local authorities work together to improve local disaster risk preparedness in conflict-affected regions

Since the outbreak of hostilities in Donbas in 2014, the issue of emergency response to conflict-related incidents has become critical. In the first years of the conflict, cooperation between local authorities and NGOs on emergency management was insufficient, at both national and local levels.

Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts have particular regional characteristics – heavily industrialized, densely populated, and resource-rich. These factors exacerbated risks to the civilian population in the  conflict affected areas who face the threats of shelling, increased military presence and ecological or industrial disaster risks.

ACTED is engaged in a Disaster Risk Reduction programme, with support from the European Union (EU) through its Civil Protection and Humanitarian Operations (ECHO) and from the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which follows two years of emergency preparedness activities, implemented in both Donetsk and Luhansk. ACTED’s work with local authorities has led to the adoption and implementation of jointly developed preparedness tools and actions by local authorities.

Image 1. Training for local authorities on IARA implementation. Kramatorsk, December 2018

An example of such work is the development of contingency plans on shelling and utility cuts in 4 targeted raions (Volnovakha, Yasynuvata, Bakhmut, and Popasna) and one municipality (Toretsk). The plans have strengthened local preparedness and emergency response capacity, enabling prioritization of response actions and the involvement of humanitarian stakeholders when an emergency occurs.

«When I started to work here six months ago, I thought that there was a contingency plan for any situation and you know exactly how to act step by step. It turned out that no plans or activities had been developed at all. So, we are very thankful for what ACTED has done.» Marina, representative of Civil Protection Unit at the Volnovakha district administration.

In parallel to the development of contingency plans, ACTED supported increased cooperation between local authorities and humanitarian organizations, to enhance the effective provision of humanitarian assistance during emergency response in conflict-affected areas. These efforts capitalized on the UN’s Inter-Agency Rapid Assessment (IARA) tool, which was created in 2018 to improve the collection of data on the ground and subsequently enable better coordination of humanitarian aid in response to an emergency.

As this was a tool designed for the humanitarian community, local authorities were not included in the process, which meant a gap in the type of information that could be collected, and the effectiveness of the response. Working closely with representatives of administrations, ACTED adapted the IARA toolbox for their use, capitalizing on the data that they already collect on the ground: the adapted standard questionnaire has now been adopted by the authorities. Since local authorities worked jointly with ACTED on adapting the questionnaire, and thus have full ownership of the process, they can better assess their needs, gaps and capacity to respond in an emergency situation: this facilitates information-sharing with humanitarian actors, and enables the prioritization of requests for support.

«The questionnaire already shows its effectiveness. Now there is no need to send a separate request for assistance to each mission. And humanitarian organizations have easier access to information from the authorities. This is much easier. We have already launched this program in our region.» Yuriy, representative of Luhansk regional administration.

Image 2 – Discussion of ACTED’s Disaster Risk Reduction Program during an event
Sviatohirsk, 20 June, 2019

Going beyond theoretical exercises, ACTED also regularly holds table-top simulations to bring together the various stakeholders involved in emergency response in conflict-affected areas. This gives them an opportunity to practice using the tools developed by ACTED and local authorities. These simulations thus include representatives from local administrations, State Emergency Services and national and international humanitarian actors. A recent event, which was held in Sviatohirsk in June, illustrates the importance of encouraging interaction between authorities in the context of these trainings:  participants from various professions/departments worked together to draft emergency response algorithms, discuss problems and share experiences.

Image 3 – Table-top simulation, Sviatohirsk, 20 June, 2019

“The first example of IARA implementation is the shelling of Zolote and Popasna in April and May, 2019. A small number of buildings were destroyed. There was no need for hygiene products, warm clothes and water, only a need for reconstruction of the buildings. The local authorities did not have funds to repair houses. And through this questionnaire we sent a request and then humanitarian workers allocated funds and delivered help to the population. As a result, people whose houses had been destroyed, were resettled to new homes.” Anton, representative of Luhansk regional administration.

Step by step, ACTED continues to build on links between sectors of intervention and local authorities in eastern Ukraine, while supporting better local capacity for humanitarian response in case of emergency. The aim of ACTED’s program is to increase preparedness and awareness of risks, and thus reduce risks to populations living in conflict-affected regions. The project also seeks to increase confidence in government and international assistance, and ensure conflict affected populations are not forgotten.

In line with its continued commitment to developing local disaster preparedness capacity and with the help of funding from USAID/OFDA and the ECHO, ACTED has expanded its activities and begun the implementation of two new projects aimed at promoting preparedness to and taking measures towards the mitigation of multi-hazard disaster risk – including industrial and ecological hazards in Donbas. These new projects will be implemented in partnership with sister agency IMPACT Initiatives, Ukrainian NGO Right to Protection, and the Danish, Austrian and Ukrainian Red Cross Societies. Ultimately, ACTED remains dedicated to supporting coordinated efforts between humanitarian actors and local authorities in Eastern Ukraine for the welfare of conflict-affected communities.