Save the Children Family Tracing and Reunification Consultancy

Save the Children | East and Southern Africa Office

Family Tracing and Reunification Consultancy, Regional Office – Taking stock of inter-agency progress in the East and Horn of Africa

Introduction: Save the Children, 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 benefiting 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) and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), whilst also aiming to improve available evidence through research.

Background Information: The conflict in South Sudan has caused large scale separation of children from their families – separation that has been both internal within South Sudan as well as across international borders as families became spread out across the region.

Since 2014, several INGOs, as well as UNICEF, UNHCR, IOM and ICRC have been running Family Tracing and Reunification Programmes (or Restoring Family Links, ICRC) aimed at identifying children who have become separated from their families 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, 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)

It is now three years since this report was shared with relevant counterparts, in which clear recommendations for improving FTR / RFL programmes were provided. However, large numbers 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. Striving to improve our FTR/RFL programming and provide an effective service to families who are separated by conflict is critical to our mandate as child protection actors.

Save the Children and the RCPN, therefore, intend to use the opportunity provided by DANIDA funding to review the recommendations provided in the initial RCPN report in 2017, taking stock of progress made over the past three years, analysing the extent to which recommendations from the previous study were actioned, whilst simultaneously analysing their current relevance given the changing context. The study will also document good practice and identify remaining gaps that require further technical support.

Purpose and Objective of the study: The study proposed here is being initiated by Save the Children’s Regional Programming Unit (RPU) through DANIDA funding and is supported by the RCPN.

There are 5 specific research objectives:

  1. Establish the current status of inter-agency, cross-border FTR / RFL programming in the region, including sharing baseline data on the number of internal and cross border links and reunifications that have been achieved since the beginning of 2018 and reflecting on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
  2. Examine the progress made in implementing the recommendations provided in the South Sudan Situation Study commissioned by the RCPN in 2017, including an analysis of successes and barriers/delays.
  3. Use the above analyses to document key areas of good practice in the region to enable further in-depth engagement to strengthen similar work in other areas.
  4. Identify whether there are other or new factors (which may not have been captured during the previous RCPN-commissioned study) that are inhibiting effective and efficient FTR/RFL. This should include, but not be limited to, operational, geo-political, and financial factors.
  5. Highlight which of the recommendations from the previous RCPN study remain unactioned and obtain 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 improvements.

This follow-up study will, in the longer term, contribute towards strengthening inter-agency, cross-border monitoring, evaluation, feedback and follow-up on FTR/RFL processes in the region.

It is hoped that the conclusions and recommendations of this stock taking exercise will benefit all child protection actors and members of the RCPN in the region, whilst also being informative for other contexts where cross-border FTR / RFL and case management programmes are being implemented.

Geographic area of focus: The study will focus on FTR / RFL programming in South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia.

How to Apply

CLICK HERE to apply online

Closing Date: 26th October 2020

  • (1)The RISP was the Regional Information Sharing Protocol signed in May 2015 by members of the Regional Child Protection Network.

Community Development, NGO and UN
Updated: October 17, 2020 — 9:22 am