Save the Children (SCI), through DANIDA funding, is running a four year (2018-2021) regional humanitarian project that seeks to contribute towards children (boys and girls) and their families benefitting from life-saving humanitarian assistance, protection and psychosocial wellbeing, resilience and self-reliance in the East and Horn of Africa. The project focuses on child protection systems strengthening, advocacy and capacity building particularly in relation to family tracing and reunification (FTR) while also aiming to improve available evidence through research and evidence.
SCI, in collaboration with the Regional Child Protection Network (RCPN), is conducting a joint in-depth analysis of Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR) and Restoring Family Links (RFL) Programmes in the region. The RCPN is a regional forum which aims to address child protection issues in the East and Horn of Africa. Its members include UNICEF, IOM, UNHCR, Save the Children International, International Rescue Committee, Lutheran World Federation, World Vision International, and Plan International, with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the national Red Cross societies as observer members.
Since 2014, several RCPN members have been running Family Tracing and Reunification / Restoring Family Links Programmes aimed at identifying children who have become separated from their families due to on-going conflict in South Sudan, and reuniting them. Save the Children established its own South Sudan Regional Response Team in June 2014 and began its FTR programme shortly afterwards.
With the significant number of agencies implementing FTR/RFL programmes to respond to the South Sudan conflict, it became essential to establish mechanisms for sharing data and information to render the process of reuniting families more efficient and effective. The Regional Information Sharing Protocol (RISP)1 was developed to respond to this need, and in May 2015, it was signed by the members of the Regional Child Protection Network (RCPN): Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Plan International (PI), Save the Children International (SCI), World Vision International (WVI), UNICEF, and UNHCR.
The purpose of the RISP was to facilitate cross border, inter-agency collaboration on FTR/RFL; it aimed to fast-track the sharing and matching of personal data on unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) between UN agencies and NGO partners for the purpose of tracing children and parents who had been separated from each other, re-establishing contacts between them and facilitating their reunification, where it was in the best interests of the child. Technical support to the RISP was provided by members of the Regional Child Protection Network. The Inter-Agency Child Protection
Information Management System (CPIMS)/Rapid FTR Tools were the main instruments used for recording and sharing the data.
When the RISP expired in May 2016, it had not yielded any results in terms of cross-border tracing and reunification. Consequently, Save the Children and members of the Regional Child Protection Network decided to take stock of the lessons learnt throughout the implementation of the RISP: a review workshop was organised for members of the RCPN to identify the next course of action and readjust the plan. A study was also commissioned by the RCPN to identify the needs of unaccompanied and separated children with regards to family tracing and reunification, assess the role of the community in tracing, and map the existing procedures and actors working in three countries where UASC and / or caregivers from South Sudan were located: Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. The study’s central conclusion – expressed through the views of children and communities – highlighted the need to strengthen participation, coordination and delivery of FTR/RFL services for the South Sudan refugee situation in the region. The study also gave several recommendations that were to be implemented by the respective agencies to enhance FTR which included:
– Better integrate communities into the FTR/RFL process, strengthening awareness of both adults and children of how to access existing FTR/RFL services, and ensuring child friendly processes.
– Early detection of children with tracing needs is essential
– Strengthen the broader case management system in-country to support tracing and reunification efforts
– Robust coordination and referral systems are needed among agencies, including the standardization of RFL/FTR tools and formats to strengthen coordination.
– Train protection workers to support efficient best interest assessments and relevant referrals;
ensuring they are succinct to avoid re-traumatizing the children (UAM/SC)
Three years on from this report in 2020, a large number of children remain separated from their caregivers in the region. These children fall into distinct categories: some remain with no information on the whereabouts of their parents /caregivers and for them the FTR process is on-going; some are now in contact with their parents/caregivers, but have not been physically reunited despite a desire to be so; some have been helped to successfully trace their parents / caregivers, but prefer to stay in camps to access other services. The ICRC’s RFL programme helps them maintain contact with their parents/guardians in their country of origin. For agencies such as Save the Children, who continue to run FTR/RFL programmes, the concern is for unaccompanied and separated children who still wish to have contact restored with their families and whose ultimate wish is to be reunited.
With this concern in mind, Save the Children secured funding from DANIDA to carry out a stocktaking exercise on behalf of the RCPN, with the aim of re-visiting the 2017 report and monitoring inter-agency progress against the recommendations it made (outlined above). The objectives of this new study were agreed with the RCPN and submitted to the donor, and are outlined below.
A first round of inquiry took place in late 2020 / early 21, which produced an initial level of data and a preliminary report, which was submitted to the RCPN in March 2021. This preliminary report elicited observations and concerns by RCPN members including the ICRC, and based on this, the RCPN and Save the Children have decided to commission a further complementary study to enable a deeper analysis into two countries and explore in greater detail the areas outlined in the objectives below. This 2nd study will intentionally use the March 2021 report with highlighted comments from RCPN members. All outstanding issues will be addressed in the final report with deepened and verified contextual analysis as evidence.
Purpose and Objective of the study
The proposed study is being initiated by the RCPN and Save the Children’s Regional Programming Unit (RPU) through DANIDA funding. Its purpose is to enable the RCPN to do a stocktake of progress made in FTR / RFL programming since the end of the RISP. It maintains the same 5 objectives that were agreed by the RCPN for the first round of enquiry in 2020, underlining the need for strong evidence of progress, good practice and challenges that exist within FTR / RFL programming in the region. The intention is to strengthen inter-agency understanding of where progress has been achieved and where gaps and challenges lie, in order to enhance collaborative and effective inter-agency FTR / RFL programming in future. For this round of the study, two countries, South Sudan and Uganda, have been selected for a more in-depth analysis of the status of programming since the 2017 recommendations.
Objectives of the study
- a) Assess and establish the current status of inter-agency, cross-border FTR / RFL programmin
Verify existing data and collect new data, where necessary, on the number of internal and cross border links and reunifications that have been achieved since the beginning of 2018 .
- b) Based on the recommendations provided in the South Sudan Situation Study commissioned by the RCPN in 2017, examine what is working/not working and identify the enabling factors that have promoted progress where it is found.
- c) Document practical examples of good practice and challenges faced in the two countries (South Sudan & Uganda) including the implication of Covid-19 in SSD & UGA in order to strengthen similar work in other areas in the Region.
- d) Gather and document views from key stakeholders (RCPN members, government actors and communities) as to the resources, tools, technology, mechanisms, adaptations and activities that are needed to generate the required improvemen The views of children who have been involved in RFL/ FTR programmes should also be gathered to understand their experience of the processes involved.
- e) Document practical recommendations to inform protection actors and members of the RCPN
on cross-border FTR / RFL programming options
Geographic area of focus: The study will focus on FTR / RFL programming in South Sudan and
Uganda including a priority focus being given to cross border cases.
Interested candidates are requested to submit:
1) Short proposal (incl. proposed methods and support needs)
2) Time line for planned work (no more than 15 days)
- Inception Report for planned work, including a detailed description of the proposed methodology
- Desk review of any reports ‘with relevance to FTR / RFL programmes in the region.
- Draft and Final Study Report with recommendations that incorporates comments from RCPN
members and SCI
- Submission of all raw data and interview transcripts
- Internal consultation meeting and presentation made to RCPN cochairs and SC teams and
RCPN partners for validation before dissemination
21st September 2021.
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