Kenya: Consultancy- Research on the impact of armed conflict

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Organization: Save the Children
Country: Kenya
Closing date: 29 Aug 2018


Regional Research on the impact of armed conflict and displacement of girls and boys in the HOA

1 Introduction:

Exposure to conflict poses significant risks to the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of affected populations. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable given that humanitarian emergencies often disrupt the very social institutions, community resources, economic livelihoods, and infrastructural supports that children depend on for normal growth and development. Although children can be remarkably resilient and adaptive to change in their environments, such disruption of the social fabric commonly warrants the mobilization of interventions addressing mental health and psychosocial support to further facilitate recovery and growth (Loughrey & Eyber, 2003; Boothby, Wessells & Strang, 2006; Hunter, 2012)

The need for mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services for children in contexts of humanitarian crises is now widely accepted. In recent years, increasingly more attention has been placed on ensuring MHPSS provision is included as a basic component of all humanitarian response efforts. Children, because of their unique vulnerabilities and responses to environmental emergencies, factor prominently in efforts to better address mental health and psychosocial challenges.

In 2007, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), representing United Nations (UN) and non-UN international humanitarian organizations, convened a consultative process on the minimum standards of mental health and psychosocial support all organizations should adhere to during humanitarian emergencies. The guidance developed through this consultation, the IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings (2007), represented a call to action for more professional standards and practices in emergency settings. The guidelines recognize the pervasive and destructive nature of unaddressed, or under-addressed, mental health and psychosocial needs due to humanitarian crises and advice collaboration across sectors and agencies in coordinating MHPSS support endeavors.

Although a major focus of the IASC guidelines is upon actions that can be anticipated to be of relevance across diverse humanitarian contexts, a consistent emphasis across recommended actions is appraisal of needs and capacities that can inform response. While there has been significant advance in the availability of tools to support such appraisals (e.g. WHO & UNHCR, 2012), the assessment of mental health and psychosocial wellbeing – particularly of children – has remained a particular challenge. Such assessment is relevant both to the determination of the goals and nature of interventions and to the subsequent judgment of their impact.

The importance of measurement is not only related to the issue of evaluation. Programming decisions continue to often be based upon assumed MHPSS needs (often on the basis of judgments by external actors) or, at best, somewhat superficial initial assessment exercises rather than upon structured baseline assessments (Ager et al., 2011; Marquer et al., 2012). Lack of clarity in the assessment of needs puts at risk the beneficial impact of programs on their intended populations, and increases the likelihood of wasting crucial human and financial resources on ineffective programs. In contrast, effective assessment measures inform practitioners of the specific nature of children's MHPSS needs so that suitable programming can be appropriately focused, enhancing accountability to both beneficiaries and donors.

1 Scope of work – description of task

The proposed research will focus on analysing the impact of armed conflict and displacement on the mental and psychosocial health of girls and boys in the HOA, with a gender focus. The geographic focus for the primary research will be in Uganda and South Sudan, with Uganda being a large South-Sudanese refugee hosting country. To a lesser extent, the research will also focus on Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, mainly on desk review of secondary data. It will review the impact conflict in the HoA region has had on boys and girls mental and psychosocial health, as well as structures in place and efforts by government and other stakeholders to address these needs. The expectation is that it will contribute to future programme improvement and design, advocacy and policy development. The target group will be children (both accompanied and unaccompanied) and other children at risk up to the age of 18.

Research Approach: Over the past two decades, both research and practice has shifted away from deficits-based approaches toward resilience-oriented approaches in studying the impact of conflict on Mental and Psychosocial Health of children (Fernando & Ferrari, 2013; Ungar, 2008, 2012. The shift toward resilience approaches is based, in part, on evidence showing that the majority of war-affected children do not develop mental disorders (Steel et al., 2009). Rather, many children exhibit remarkable functionality and well-being amid circumstances that might have been expected to produce negative outcomes (Masten & Narayan, 2012; Reed et al., 2012; Wessells, 2006). Resilience is a socio-ecological construct (Ungar, 2013). This concept emphasizes the importance of children's social environment, with the child at the center and surrounded by family, community, societal, and international levels (Wessells, 2016). Resilience is the capacity of individuals to navigate and negotiate resources from their own, families and communities (ecological) that sustain well-being (Ungar, 2013). Conflict affected children have assets or resources that support mental health and psychosocial well-being. A common error in work on mental health and psychosocial well-being is to ignore these resources and to focus solely on deficits – the weaknesses, suffering and pathology – of the affected group (IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial support in Emergency settings, 2007).

In this study, an ecological frameworks approach shall be used to assess resources that affect mental health and psychosocial well-being of children affected by armed conflict. The benefit of the ecological approach is that it enables us to understand wide-ranging sources of MHPSS risks for war-affected children. These risks include displacement, loss of loved ones, separation from parents or caregivers, family violence, sexual exploitation and abuse, trafficking, living and working on the streets, HIV and AIDS, engagement in dangerous labor, recruitment by armed forces or armed groups, or trafficking (Wessells, 2016). Understanding these risks help us in designing strategies that reduce them and also simultaneously strengthen protective factors.

Overall objective: To provide a comprehensive and up to date regional analysis on the impact of armed conflict on the mental and psychosocial wellbeing of girls and boys in the HOA.

More specifically, the consultant will:

1 Collect relevant demographic and contextual information. 2 Collate and analyze available (recent where possible) research/data/reports on the impact of conflict and displacement on the Mental and Psychosocial health of boys and girls in the Horn of Africa- and provide (where available) disaggregated data on the numbers and profiles of those involved. These include, but are not limited to signs of distress, impaired daily functioning, disruption of support mechanisms, community support structures, coping mechanism and information on diagnosed mental health disorders. 3 Provide insight into the regional and national structure, architecture, coordination and policies on both MH and PSS programming in the region-for conflict affected and displaced children as well as compliance to other international and regional human rights conventions. 4 Identify functionality of linkages and referral systems among sectors providing mental health and psychosocial support interventions, including health, social services, such as, community-based social work, education, protection, nutrition, shelter, and socioeconomic support, including income generating activities, livelihoods and disaster coordination. Particular emphasis will be paid to the GBV protection houses and desks for survivors of sexual gender based violence and abuse. 5 Identify and provide information on existing models of MHPSS models, and make recommendations on their efficiency and effectiveness in addressing the MHPSS needs of the communities and girls and boys affected by conflict. 6 Provide concrete recommendations to strengthen programming interventions and advocacy, which can strengthen the footprint of MHPSS agenda on regional bodies and national government agendas. 7 Provide insights on the challenges, lessons learned and best practices on MHPSS programming as per the IASC guidelines in the region, highlighting the programming needs, opportunities and recommendations by different stakeholders 8 Identify strategic questions for future research to expand knowledge base/data. 9 Make concrete recommendations to strengthen programming interventions and advocacy, which can strengthen the footprint of MHPSS agenda on regional bodies and national government agendas.

Gender: The research will specifically target girls with the aim of understanding causes, vulnerabilities, strengths and coping mechanisms specific to them; being mindful of the vulnerability of girls to gender based violence in conflict and displacement situations.

  • It will also seek to understand how the experience of girls differs from that of boys, or from women and girls in other age groups.
  • The research will seek to account for protective factors for girls in conflict and displacement, including the role of other children (girls and boys), men and women, and the relationship between girls with service providers and other actors such as police, health professionals, among others.
  • Mindful of the sensitivity of some aspects of this research, the study will seek to engage female research assistants who are best positioned to engage with targeted girls on matters that they may be reluctant to share.
  • The package of interventions will be used to shape future design in MHPSS programming and increase gender-sensitivity and age-appropriate programme design among different agencies in the region
  • The research will also seek to highlight the different impacts of conflict on the mental and psychosocial health of different genders and age groups therein, i.e., girls, boys, women and men.

  • Methodology and Timeframe

The research will use a qualitative approach, with some descriptive secondary analysis of quantitative data where available and required. The qualitative data collection methods to be used will include: (a) desk-review, including a literature review, spanning information/data on five countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda), and (b) interview data from both focus groups (FG) with children and key informant interviews (KII) in the primary research countries: South Sudan and Uganda. The data analysis will include: (a) qualitative documentary analysis, (b) descriptive statistics of the FG interview sample, incl. frequencies, and (c) thematic qualitative analysis of interviews.

Special attention has to be paid to ensure that child participation and safe spaces during data collection is foregrounded and all Focus Group activities are age appropriate, gender sensitive, child friendly and voluntary, informed and include a feedback mechanism to raise possible issues.


The work will be concluded in a period of 28 consultancy days broken down as follows:

  • Development of the methodology, work plan and basic report structure: 2 days;
  • Approval by Reference Group: 1 day
  • Desk study: 4 days
  • Travel and interviews with stakeholders and FGs with children: 12 days
  • Data analysis as outlined above (including transcription of key interviews): 4 days
  • Report writing: 2 days
  • Incorporating comments from Reference Group Final report: 3 days

1 Deliverables

1 Planning meeting with Save the Children and Reference Group 2 Finalized research design 3 Research instruments for use during children's focus group discussions 4 Prepare the Child and Youth Resilience Measurement (CYRM) for use in the study 5 Scoring and understanding the Child and Youth Resilience Measure 6 Training for research assistants in CYRM survey and interview 7 Detailed report, including recommendations 8 Transcript or recordings of interviews and other primary data collected as part of the research.

1 Reporting Lines

This is an inter-agency research, with Save the Children as the lead and interagency members and Standing Invitees forming the rest of the task force. The consultant will therefore report to Save the Children who will facilitate feedback from the inter-agency team and feedback to the consultant for finalization and next steps.

1 Roles and Responsibilities

The Consultant:

  • Professional and independent delivery of all above listed deliverables in line with specified objectives listed within the Terms of Reference within agreed upon timeframe.
  • Quality written outputs that are of publishable quality.
  • Regular and transparent reporting on progress to RPU, including any delays or challenges as they develop.
  • Commitment to presenting results in a professional and accessible manner.

Save the Children and RPU:

  • Supporting the Consultant in accessing programme related documents and research (where necessary).
  • Supporting and facilitating interactions with Country Offices (incl. regarding interview availability).
  • Actively engaging the Consultant throughout the research and review process.
  • Being available for feedback and review of drafts, (this does not include substantive work on documents).

  • Consultancy Profile

  • A background in Health, Psychology, Protection, Conflict and Security Studies, Social Sciences or any other related area of study;

  • Demonstrable experience on matters relating to conflict and displacement locally, regionally and globally. Experience on children affected by conflict is highly desirable.

  • Proven humanities research skills and experience in the subject area of Mental and Psychosocial Health, at least 5 years. Experience of working with children issues highly desirable.

  • Good understanding of legal and policy frameworks in the Horn of Africa;

  • Good understanding of socio-economic dynamics, especially conflict related displacement, in the Horn of Africa;

  • Excellent analytical and reporting skills;

  • Proven track record of producing publishable reports;

  • High standard of written and spoken English;

  • Knowledge of Arabic would be an added advantage.

Target audience/stakeholders: Humanitarian actors, e.g. the UN, Other International Non-Governmental Organizations, and Local NGO's, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Government, affected communities, girls and boys.

Application Process: All Proposals and CVs to be sent by 5pm on 29th August 2018

How to apply:

Application Email: Please apply with a covering letter and up-to-date CV to: ''

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