WHY IS THIS PROJECT SO IMPORTANT?
As fighting rages in Aleppo, Mosul, Sana’a, Donetsk, Kunduz, and beyond, and even hospitals and schools have been hit, millions of civilians are trapped in the crossfire. Many families have disabled, elderly, or young dependents who are difficult to evacuate, or cannot afford to flee, so they are at high risk of getting killed or injured. There are many medical, humanitarian, and mine action response teams aiming to help them, but the realities of war mean that most of that help comes months or even years after the community has already been destroyed. Therefore, most civilians are left to their own devices in the lead up and first months of violence and isolation.
That’s why Humanitarian Bazaar, with a vast network of aid worker, war journalist, and refugee advisers, decided to create the War Survivors Advisory as a more local, organic approach to “pre-harm” civilian protection. Beyond conventional war journalist, aid worker, and military security trainers, we believe there is much more transferable technique to be harvested from regular people, most of whom will never have access to helmets, flack jackets, professional first aid training, college, or money to install things, so they need really practical hacks that anyone can do, as demonstrated by someone like them.
Much of these “pre-harm” efforts have been done in the past, especially during the Second World War with large-scale radio programs about air raid safety, government-organized evacuation plans, and underground metro stations converted to mass bomb shelters. But over the past decades, such universal “pre-harm” protection, helping people before their community is destroyed, has been hard for most agencies to fund in the current humanitarian coordination which focuses more on “post-harm” response. Many aid workers and journalists, in fact, get professional expert training and equipment to respond in conflict-affected communities where they work with thousands of mothers, children, and elderly who live their long term and never have access to such security and safety training without a project like this. How will it work?
Meet some of the many brave families who are taking part in our War Survivors project in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Ukraine, and soon Syria and Somalia. Photo credit: Humanitarianbazaar.org.
PHASE I: ASSESSMENT IN AFGHANISTAN, BOSNIA, SOMALIA, SYRIA, & UKRAINE
How does one build a bomb shelter? Reinforced shelter bed? A combat crib? A sniper blind? How do you zone living space and courtyards for risk of gunfire or sniper fire? Millions of people who survived past wars know these things, but need help passing these skills and advice to civilians currently living in crossfire. Now we can do something about it. In the War Survivor’s Advisory: Phase I, we are working with independent private donations from individuals to conduct a global assessment.
That means paying local war survivors to conduct research in their communities which includes focus group discussions, video interviews in which survivors can demonstrate a survival technique (anonymous, without showing face, is okay if they prefer), and a survey questionnaire. We also provide cash grants to any survivors who demonstrate an important technique and have a specific need.
In August 2016, we launched phase one in communities caught between Afghan forces, the Taliban, and Da’esh in rural Nangarhar, Afghanistan. This allowed us to start with the most difficult situation, and the least sophisticated and resourced community first, to see if this project can work! Successfully including our first 120 families there, we then moved on, in November 2016, to add communities still trapped in ongoing urban shelling near the front line in Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine.
Prior to all of this, we also conducted initial interviews in Bosnia, Somalia, and with Syrian refugees, as well. With the right support, this global assessment will include Afghanistan, Bosnia, Somalia Syria, and Ukraine, to show a cross section of civilian factors of education level, income level, gender, urban/rural, while avoiding political and ethnic partisanship.
Our goal will be to complete our initial Survivors manual & report, documentary video, and proposal for new partners for expansion based on the assessment totaling deep field context research, 12 focus group discussions, 24 expert interviews, 120 local survival technique interviews, and 1200+ family questionnaires for quantitative data showing how the local survivors believe are the best routes to assist.