Acting in Advance of Flooding: Early action in South Sudan

Image of Brief Cover: Actingin in Advance of Flooding

How do humanitarians perceive the process of designing and implementing assistance in advance of climate hazards? In 2022 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) developed and implemented an early action pilot to address impending extreme flooding in South Sudan. The intervention was concentrated in and around the Bentiu Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, Unity State.

This brief provides findings from a study about involved UN actors’ perceptions of this early action intervention. It contributes evidence on implementing early action (a type of anticipatory action) in complex environments, including for displaced people, and in the face of protracted crises. As the anticipatory action community and other humanitarians seek to address extreme climate events before they occur and broaden the environments in which early and anticipatory action can effectively be undertaken, deeper understanding of processes is important.

Findings include:

  • Informants across UN agencies were overwhelmingly positive about the novel structure of the intervention, which included a special task force and a project tracker. Informants explained that having “on-the-ground oversight” from the task force helped keep projects on track and sped up decision-making.
  • At the same time, some informants perceived the regular follow-ups with project partners through the task force as an uncomfortable form of micro-managing. Others explained that limited decision-making power of agency staff working at the sub-national level led to delays in implementation. These findings relate to power dynamics and link to larger calls for humanitarian localization in the aid sector.
  • The majority of informants discussed the need to increase linkages between anticipatory action and development. Suggestions for doing so included increasing adaptive actions, such as building elevated houses for households and paving roads to improve access to difficult-to-reach areas. While little of the literature on anticipatory action considers its role in development processes and programming, or vice versa, this study illustrates that humanitarian practitioners see this link as critical. They believe that better links could enable the humanitarian and development systems to better work together to provide long-term solutions rather than the limited short-term help that anticipatory action was perceived by many as constituting.

This project was undertaken with the cooperation of UN OCHA. The study was conducted as part of the work of the Academic Alliance on Anticipatory Action (4As), a consortium of universities around the world seeking to inform and enhance anticipatory action. The 4As Consortium is funded by USAID and led by Tufts University in partnership with Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique. Makerere University in Uganda, the National University of Lesotho, University of Namibia, and University of the Philippines.

ASSOCIATED PROJECT

SUBJECTS

PUBLICATION TYPE

LOCATION

RELATED PUBLICATIONS

Thumbnail image of report cover

This study examines how anticipatory action was perceived and experienced among Ethiopians living with drought alongside other crises.

Thumbnail image of cover

This learning brief presents preliminary findings on strategic mobility and its nutritional benefits to pastoral and agropastoral communities in select sites in Isiolo and Marsabit Counties, Kenya.

Thumbnail of Report "Do Famine Declarations Really Lead to Increased Funding?

This policy brief examines the relationship between famine declarations and funding since 2011. It shows that, with that one exception, there is little evidence that famine declarations actually result in a rapid increase in funding.

Report cover thumbnail

This report provides insights and perspectives from participatory workshops with displaced female youth in the Kurdistan region of the Republic of Iraq (KRI).

Cover of Report "Sex, age (and more) still matter"

This report reviews progress, outlines barriers to further progress, and makes recommendations to advance gender equality in the humanitarian system.

Picture of report cover "Co-investigators but with different power"

Building on a previous report on the localization of humanitarian assistance, this study focuses on issues unique to the localization of humanitarian research.

Load more