Our experience with Danish Red Cross in Syria, Lebanon, and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq
In November 2019, the Danish Red Cross (DRC) commissioned IWORDS Consulting to undertake the final evaluation of a special grant project that supports vulnerable internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, and host communities affected by the Syria crisis in emergency health, psychosocial support (PS), and relief (mainly through different modalities of cash-based interventions). This project was a continuation of DRC’s intervention in the region. The objective was to alleviate suffering and enhance the resilience of people affected by the Syrian crisis in Syria, Lebanon, and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), by improving access to basic services and the psychosocial well-being and coping strategies of the target population.
This multi-country project was implemented from 1 October, 2018 to 31 December, 2019, and IWORDS Consulting had the existing task to assess the project according to the following evaluation criteria: relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and connectedness. The evaluation team used qualitative and quantitative methodologies to assess the evaluation criteria, such as a one-month in-depth desk review, 30 semi-structured interviews with staff and volunteers, 24 focus groups with the targeted population and volunteers, as well as field visits to refugees and IDPs camps in the KRI and Lebanon. IWORDS had the permanent support of a simultaneous Arabic/English interpreter, and volunteers from the Red Cross Red Crescent (RCRC) Movement supported the evaluation team with Kurdish/Arabic interpretation.
Due to the security situation in Syria, administrative constraints expressed by Syrian authorities and limitations on movement within Syria, the evaluation team was not able to travel to this country. For this reason, alternative actions were undertaken by the Danish Red Cross (DRC) and IWORDS to mitigate this limitation and to gather the necessary data to conduct the evaluation. For instance, DRC staff and RCRC implementing partners in Syria traveled from Damascus to Beirut to be interviewed by the evaluation team and to take part in open discussions. Furthermore, the implementing partners, in addition to participating in the semi-structured interviews, also received training on the execution of participative methodologies (such as Focus Group Discussions, data collection, and reporting) to collect information from the target population in rural Damascus and other places of intervention and send it back to IWORDS for its analysis.
In order to provide additional support in the data collection process within Syria, the PMEAL delegate of DRC travelled to Damascus to provide further support and stayed in permanent communication with the evaluation team with presence Amman, Jordan. Likewise, DRC staff and RCRC implementing partners and volunteers who could not travel to Beirut for in-person interviews were contacted by the evaluation team through online platforms. During the data analysis process, the consistency of the data generated by the mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative data) was scrutinized rigorously. The consistency of the data from the same data collection method was also examined (for example, comparing the findings of semi-structured interviews).
The biggest lesson learnt for the evaluation team is to never underestimate how the security and political context may affect the agenda and the schedule of the process. Despite the fact that IWORDS developed a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C during the proposed agendas for field visits, Plan A was developed in more detail than the other two (Plan B and Plan C). The main plan as well as the back-up plans should be equally developed!