Background on the Haitian Earthquake

global Capacity in the Child Protection in emergencies sector

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global Capacity in the Child Protection in emergencies sector

  1. Technical capacity

The CPIE sector does not have an adequate level of senior staff either in coordination or technical areas. The response in Haiti clearly showed that the sector does not have enough language diversity in its globally-deployable workforce. However, in addition to traditional deployments (standby and Emergency Response Teams), new temporary staffing opportunities (US Government IT/database consultant) were identified. Better human resources procedures are needed to temporarily re-assign national staff working in other emergency settings.


    1. The members of the CPWG need to work together to strengthen and expand capacity for emergency deployments, as well as longer-term workers. Senior managers of CPWG members need to build and strengthen internal organizational rosters, as well as improve and expand the pool of external ‘surge’ capacity (i.e. ISS workers, national social work registries), with a particular emphasis on language and cultural diversity. In addition, they should work together to negotiate clauses in donor contracts for the temporary re-assignment on short notice of national staff designated as “emergency personnel”.

    2. Members of the CPWG should interview international and senior national CPiE staff who have left the sector in the last five years, as well as current mid-career personnel, and channel those findings into the development of a mid-career retention strategy.

  1. Leadership

Many respondents noted that senior level child protection staff was lacking across most of the agencies involved in the response. In the face of a disaster of such enormity – which in the case of Haiti was clear from the outset based on the severity of the earthquake and the pre-existing challenges in protecting children - senior leadership needs to trigger massive response and scale down as needed. Furthermore, senior managers with excellent leadership and managerial skills (who need not necessarily have a technical CPIE background) must be deployed by each responding member of the CPWG to ensure an effective response.

Better rapid analysis of the child protection concerns, structures and capacities that existed prior to the crisis and how the emergency might impact on them is required. Likewise, senior programmers and advisors need to identify key protection issues earlier, as was witnessed with the delay in gearing up work on interim care and trafficking.

One recommendation made by several interviewees was that a senior interagency group (e.g. of global Heads of CP or failing that advisors) should be convened in country within the first 2 weeks of a massive emergency. This seemed to be the case with some other sectors, including WASH, where the heads of the water departments of several INGOs were in country for one to two months. This could be done for child protection as well. As a driving force establishing the sub-cluster, the group would work with the Coordinator and other members to clarify the scale of CP issues (e.g. ensure quality of assessment process), develop top-line sectoral strategy, assess staffing needs/structure, determine technical areas and necessary support/expertise, strengthen interagency coordination, and role-model solidarity within the CPIE community to their colleagues in response teams.

Finally but importantly, the sector continued to be hampered by a lack of a clear understanding internally of the distinction between Child Protection as protection from violence, abuse and exploitation and the overall safeguarding of children’s rights (and how this ensures child survival). In Haiti, it was very difficult for CP practitioners to not get 'wrapped up' in issues of child survival, especially when other actors were perceived to be responding too slowly. It is important that the CP sector maintain its protection focus and thus, it is crucial that the CP Coordinator has the leadership skills to be able to manage this challenge and bring clarity to the group as needed.


    1. The most senior CPiE managers from CPWG agencies convene to discuss thresholds for triggering larger scale responses, the feasibility of interagency missions within 2 weeks of a large-scale emergency, as well as issues related to sector-wide staffing and retention and other key recommendations from this review.

    2. The new interagency definition of child protection should be widely distributed both within the sector and externally; CP agencies should vigorously use it in training in the coming years.

Further elements of global Preparedness of the cpie sector

  1. Supplies

A number of years ago, the IAWG on UASC decided to abandon the notion of standardized kits for FTR, and thus the practice of stockpiling them regionally ended. This decision meant that it was difficult for the Haitian responders to achieve group consensus on what an FTR kit – or CFS for that matter – should contain. Discrepancies led to delays and confusion amongst affected children and communities.


    1. Standard interagency specifications for CPIE supplies should be developed via the CPWG.

    2. Agencies should coordinate stockpiles, including pre-agreeing the level of interagency access to such supplies, and identifying geographical or logistical gaps.

  1. Tools

This emergency response in Haiti exposed a lack of key programme tools for the CPIE sector, including:

  • a rapid assessment tool

  • a tool to map the types, scale and geographic coverage of sub cluster members’ programmes

  • a set of common minimum standards in CPIE programming, and / or

  • a set of interagency standard operating procedures in CPIE programming; and

  • a set of prepared communications materials, such as key messages for those undertaking medical evacuations, those staffing borders and exit points, those responding, and those affected.

It is well demonstrated that where tools exist, this does not automatically lead to their use or to faster or better quality responses. Nonetheless, the development of such tools is imperative and furthermore, the experience of other sectors in developing such tools (such as MHPSS in developing a mapping tool, or Education in developing standards) has been that this can foster a good sense of solidarity and common goals within the global group membership.

The lack of a coherent, coordinated rapid assessment (RA) tool warrants a specific mention as it was a major gap in the first few weeks of the response. Respondents clearly felt that a pre-existing IA RA tool would have been enormously helpful and prevented much of the ‘back and forthing’ over whether the assessment should focus on survival issues or on CP-specific issues of violence, abuse and exploitation. Two forms were actually drafted within the first week of the emergency – one at the national level and one at the global level – but neither led to the implementation of a rapid assessment. One senior staffer stated “The primary reason there was no sub-cluster rapid assessment is because the tool that was developed [in the first 4 days by primarily UNICEF, IBERS and MINUSTAH] did not meet the needs of the CPWG members other than those specifically looking at the issue of survival of children in institutions (which was very limited).”

Child Protection also struggled to have its issues properly incorporated into the inter-sectoral assessment (ACAP) and within the Protection Cluster’s tool. Ultimately and despite a significant commitment of time, those assessments did not adequately meet the needs of members of the CP sub-cluster.

Respondents stressed the importance of ensuring that assessment tools meet the needs of all

CP sub-cluster actors, rather than a select few. This speaks to the on-going issue of ensuring that sub-cluster coordinators understand that sub-cluster coordination processes and tools must meet the needs and represent the interests of all members, and not only or primarily the organization to which the CP Coordinator belongs.

Finally, translation was a huge constraint in Haiti. Even when materials were translated, local staff of different sub cluster members identified mistakes and in some cases documents had to go through three rounds of translation.


    1. The CPWG needs to develop a list of required tools, based on the list above and on the recommendations of field level coordination bodies in other contexts. This list should be ranked, and a commitment secured from all key operational CPWG members to collaborate actively in the development of agreed priority tools. Where possible and practical, these tools should be developed in collaboration with other related sectors, such as GBV and MHPSS for communications materials.

    2. All existing and future interagency tools must be translated into French, Spanish and Arabic. Furthermore, potential translators of key languages should be pre-identified within CPWG member agencies at the local level, particularly in crisis-prone countries

    3. All interagency tools should be made immediately available on the CPWG web page or a linked page, and if required, on CD rom.

    4. The development of a common RA tool is a clear priority for the sector and must be resolved in the coming months. Once developed, piloting, guidance on adaptation processes and training must be undertaken.

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