Humanitarian aid work has always been conducted in hard and chaotic circumstances - but the challenges facing organisations like ours have grown in scale and complexity in recent years. The nature of armed conflict is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. Refugee and IDP numbers are hitting record highs - and the available funds to meet their needs are nowhere near adequate.
These are just some of the challenges War Child faced in 2017. To address these challenges we took the decision to participate in as many humanitarian alliances and networks as we could - and in many areas of our work this approach helped us expand both the reach and impact of our work.
Our response to the South Sudan refugee crisis was a particular success. Thousands of South Sudanese children travelled to Uganda in search of safety during 2017 - where War Child Holland teamed up with War Child Canada and TPO to meet their needs. This refugee response was only launched in late 2016 but by the end of 2017 we had reached more than 9,000 beneficiaries - a figure significantly above our target of 7,500.
Inside South Sudan we continued to expand our activities. By the end of the year 11 child friendly spaces were operational - eight of which formed part of a community-based child protection system in Jonglei State. War Child also currently serves as the psychosocial support co-lead of the UN Child Protection Cluster in South Sudan.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) we continued our project in Lusenda refugee camp which integrates child protection, psychosocial support and education. This project also saw us enter into a new partnership with UNHCR. We also kick-started a new five-year project – funded by MoFA’s Addressing Route Causes Fund – in the Kalehe territories, in partnership with ZOA and VNGi.
Our work in the Middle East - particularly in support of Syrian refugee children - expanded significantly over the course of the year. Four new projects in collaboration with partner organisations were rolled out in Lebanon and Jordan - including the Arabic version of our major education initiative Can’t Wait to Learn - all of which integrated protection, psychosocial support and education to enhanced effect.
In addition, we implemented several youth empowerment interventions inside Jordan and increased our work in support of marginalised Lebanese and Palestinian children in Lebanon, particularly in the field of education.
War Child is currently the leading agency providing emergency psychosocial support services to Syrian children in Lebanon and a member of the UN psychosocial working group. In the occupied Palestinian territories we successfully expanded the scope of our programming reaching all our target groups, with particular focus given to psychosocial support.
Our participation in the Dutch Relief Alliance (DRA) - an alliance of sixteen NGOs funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) - helped us to significantly expand our global footprint in 2017. War Child participated in DRA Joint Responses in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Central African Republic, Yemen, South Sudan and in the Middle East for Syrian refugees over the course of the year.
The year also saw us increase collaboration with War Child UK in common countries of operation. We provided financial support to War Child UK’s Iraq programme and provided both financial and operational support to War Child UK’s early education programme in Afghanistan.
In Colombia we reached more than 6,500 direct beneficiaries over the course of the year and developed plans to launch projects in support of children exposed to the effects of Urban Violence. These projects represent a significant and necessary expansion of War Child’s remit to meet the needs of conflict-affected children. The ever-changing security context in Colombia did, however, pose challenges with regard to programme delivery.
New cross-country initiatives were rolled out during the year. Can’t Wait to Learn was active in Jordan, Lebanon and Sudan - and preparatory work began to expand the programme to Uganda to meet the education needs of South Sudanese refugees. TeamUp - our coalition programme of structured recreational activities with UNICEF and Save the Children - launched in Uganda. And we took steps to boost participation and engagement in Sri Lanka and Colombia with our new Youth Councils initiative.
The year wasn’t without its challenges. Total child beneficiary numbers fell over the course of 2017 - due in part to our strategic decision to provide more comprehensive programmes to our targeted beneficiaries - and realising our ambitions in terms of research and new programme development proved more challenging than anticipated.
Even so, we can be proud of our achievements in 2017 - and are well placed to expand our impact in 2018.