Contact Mark Gill via Email
Consultant (Former title)
Reimagining Migration Responses in Sudan: Learning from migrant children and young people’s experiences. Summary Report
Migration is a regular feature of life in Sudan and the broader region. It takes multiple forms and is driven by numerous factors, including personal aspirations, curiosity, problems accessing a livelihood in the context of poverty and economic exclusion, and forced displacement stemming from political persecution, armed conflict, or natural disasters. Children and young people make up a significant portion of the upwards of 3 million migrants in Sudan. Yet there is limited understanding of the ways in which children and young people view migration, or of the opportunities and risks that it poses for them. As part of a regional research series, 467 quantitative interviews were conducted with children and young people in Sudan. The data from these interviews provide insights from children and young people themselves. Building on the findings, the research suggests a number of principles and concrete actions to create a more protective environment for children and young people on their migration journeys.
Reimagining Migration Responses in Ethiopia: Learning from migrant children and young people’s experiences. Summary Report.
Migration is a regular feature of life in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa region. It takes multiple forms and is driven by numerous factors, including personal aspirations, economic exclusion and forced displacement as a consequence of inter-ethnic communal violence or natural disasters. As part of a regional research series and based specifically on interviews carried out in 2019 with 405 migrant children and young people in Ethiopia, this report provides a deeper understanding of their perceptions and feelings around safety, well-being and their protective environments. It also provides a snapshot of their access to services and resources, and their trust in authorities and other service providers in Ethiopia. The report concludes by offering policy and programme recommendations that can help rethink child protection approaches for migrant children and young people in Ethiopia
Making sure the most vulnerable children are heard during COVID-19: Five lessons on data collection from Somalia
“Playing football was stopped, the school was closed, our parents refused to meet friends during coronavirus.” (boy, 14) “My mother used to sell breakfast in front of the school, and when the school closed it affected our daily living.” (girl, 16)While COVID-19 has presented new risks and challenges for collecting information, children’s voices must continue to be heard when developing policies and programmes that impact their lives. In recognition of this, UNICEF Somalia designed and conducted a study, with technical support from the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti and funding from the UK government, to capture the experiences of some of the most vulnerable children living in Puntland and Somaliland during the current pandemic. 1,090 children (aged 10-18 years) were interviewed between 5th and 21st July 2020. This included children living on the streets, those affected by migration, and those living alone with no family. All the data collected was disaggregated by key factors such as gender and age group to provide additional insights. Established principles of ‘do no harm’ and proper ethical standards always matter, including during times of crisis. In recognition of this, the research was conducted in line with the guidelines outlined in Ethical Considerations for Evidence Generation Involving Children on the COVID-19 Pandemic. This blog sets out five lessons around the design of primary research with children during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular highlights how we were able to successfully conduct in-person interviews while adhering to ethical and safety protocols. Lesson 1: Social workers or similar frontline staff can be utilised as interviewersConducting surveys by phone or internet would exclude the vast majority of children we wanted to speak to, so in-person interviews were required. However, social distancing rules, as well as safety and ethical considerations, meant that these interviews had to be conducted with the utmost care. Social work students were identified and trained as enumerators, as they were already assisting children in various settings in the region (including in IDP camps, safe houses, and on the street), supported by UNICEF Somalia. The social workers were well-trained on how to engage with vulnerable children and build rapport, which helped cultivate a safe space for interviews. They had also been trained on how to use an innovative online data collection tool (kobotoolbox) and were embedded in social service organisations which provided referrals if anyone who needed urgent help. They followed social distancing protocols and used the necessary protective equipment in their daily roles, so any increased risk of spreading the virus during data collection was minimised. Lesson 2: Collecting only essential data is especially important during COVIDGiven the difficult study context of vulnerable children during a pandemic, it was essential that the interview was as focused as possible. The survey length was kept short (between 10-15 minutes) to maximise response rates and minimise any impact on other social work activities. To gather a representative sample, children were randomly invited to take part. Around nine out of ten children who were invited to participate did so. The profile of those who refused to take part matched the profile of those who agreed, which meant that those who were interviewed were representative of the different types of children with whom social workers ordinarily engage with. The only exception to this approach was to invite all children with disabilities who were encountered during the fieldwork to take part in the survey. This was done to ensure a sufficient number were included. Disability was defined as those who had any difficulties in speaking, hearing, seeing, walking or any other physical difficulties. All children provided fully informed consent. Lesson 3: Data can be used to inform responses immediatelyThe findings from this study are already being integrated into UNICEF Somalia’s programming. We found very high levels of awareness of COVID-19 (around nine in ten interviewees had heard of Coronavirus) and a high proportion felt informed about how to reduce the risk of infection. However, only 67% of girls felt they were personally at risk of catching it, which was lower still among boys (61%). Coupled with data on reported changes in behaviour and sources of information about the virus, these findings are being used to help inform how COVID-19 information campaigns can be strengthened. Queries about COVID-19 are now being answered through radio and social media messaging. The research provided robust evidence on the immediate impact of the pandemic on these children; only six percent said they had been to school in the last month. Furthermore, the study showed that many of these vulnerable children were excluded from education even before the pandemic; one in four said that they had never been to school. Discouragingly, alternatives to classroom teaching, including remote learning, are not available; four in five children did not have access to the internet and two-thirds did not have either television or radio. There was little difference by gender on these indicators. In response, UNICEF’s Child Protection team is working with education partners to provide access to online schooling for internally displaced children and to train teachers on child protection and referral services. Community members in Mogadishu, Somalia during the COVID-19 outbreak.The results raise concerns about resilience should the pandemic worsen. One in four children did not have access to clean drinking water, over a third were unable to access healthcare, and 44 percent said they are unable to get medication when they need it. Again, the results for boys and girls were similar. In response to this, UNICEF and partners are expanding the provision of critical child protection services, including case management, psychosocial support, provision of alternative care for unaccompanied and separated children, and safe houses for children associated with armed groups. UNICEF distributes personal protective equipment to organisations providing these services to children. Lesson 4: Early data collection provides a robust baseline for measuring change Just over half of the children interviewed told us that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their lives (55% of boys and 47% of girls). However, it is notoriously difficult to measure changes in attitudes or behaviour in one stand-alone survey. For this reason, the survey acta as a baseline assessment to provide a measure of attitudes and experiences at a particular point in the pandemic, which could then be tracked over time (when it is appropriate and safe to do so) to provide clearer indications of changes in experiences. For example, one in four children said they had been physically hurt by someone they knew in the past month (29% of boys compared to 14% of girls) and one in eight had been forced to do unpaid work (no gender difference in response). While it is not possible at this stage to say if abuse increased because of lockdown measures, the results demonstrate that harm is ongoing and provide a benchmark for future measurement. The results can be used to help monitor potential harms that may occur, with this baseline data providing insights into what issues might be of particular concern given the impact the pandemic is having on children’s behaviour. Lesson 5: Learn from the interviewersA complementary online survey of the social workers was conducted to capture their perspectives. This survey improved understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting their work and helps identify the support they need. It triangulates the insights gathered from the children, for example by corroborating the evidence on the educational and financial impact of the pandemic. This survey also provided insights from the social workers on the potential secondary harms that children may face in the future, for example increased incidence of female genital mutilation or child marriage. As such, they can better understand the impact of the crisis, be better placed to monitor what might or might not happen and take action to mitigate negative effects. As the pandemic continues, UNICEF continuously adapts to ensure the most vulnerable children are not only protected, but that their voices are heard, and their experiences are considered when designing responses. Research is essential to this, but during this challenging time data collection methods must be adapted to overcome the constraints of the context and, most importantly, ensure children are being heard in an ethical and safe way. This rigorous, ethical research on COVID is generating lessons that will inform future work, both during and beyond this crisis. Mark Gill (Consultant, UNICEF Innocenti), Olivia Bueno (Consultant, UNICEF Innocenti) and Lawrence Oduma (Project Manager, UNICEF Somalia).
Children on the move in East Africa: Research insights to mitigate COVID-19
Migration is a core coping strategy for many children and young people across the globe, whether on their own or with their families. But it can also make children and young people vulnerable to further harm and deprivation in the absence of adequate and reliable services and social and economic support. While levels of vulnerability are dependent on multiple factors, COVID-19 is likely to pose an additional threat for those who are in transit, and those who have moved away from their homes and are living in uncertain circumstances. The protection of migrant children needs to be a central component of the COVID-19 response. We were scared to ask anyone else for help.If your friends won’t help you, then why would anyone else? - Young female migrant, 19 years old, SomaliaUNICEF Innocenti is leading a research study across Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan exploring the harms, vulnerabilities and wellbeing of children and young people who have left their homes either out of choice or coercion. Over 1,200 children and young people (aged between 14 and 24 years) were surveyed in 2019 and insights from this data point to a number of challenges likely to be faced by both girls and boys, many of whom live in squalid and cramped conditions, in the context of public health responses to curbing the spread of the coronavirus/COVID-19. First, the emphasis on handwashing assumes at a minimum access to water and soap. Yet in our research sample, almost four in ten (37%) of children and young people on the move do not have access to facilities to wash themselves. This is true for those living in camps as well as those in urban or other areas. As health authorities urge people to wash their hands regularly as an effective way to stop virus transmission, this lack of access puts those who have moved away from their homes in much greater harm. [caption id="attachment_2440" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Mubarak Mohammed Hashi, 20, driving his taxi in Hargeisa, Somaliland, first left home when he was 17 years old in search of what he hoped would be a better life abroad.[/caption] Furthermore, it is not just hygiene and washing facilities that are lacking for these vulnerable children. Many children and young people on the move are excluded from other basic services: one in four have not been able to access health services when they needed them, one in four reported being unable to access shelter or accommodation, and two in five have not been able to go to school when they wanted to. COVID-19 is likely to place further strain on struggling public services, either through greater demand (health) or closures (schools). Inevitably, the result will be more vulnerable children unable to get basic support. Second, many global and national policy responses to COVID-19 – such as lockdown and quarantine - require family and social networks being available to provide support in a time of crisis. Yet in our research sample, one in five children and young people on the move report living alone (and this is more so for boys than girls). As a result, it is likely that they will find it much harder to get the help they need, particularly if the state and public services come under greater strain as the COVID-19 disease spreads. Programmes of support should therefore make sure they can support even the hardest-to-reach vulnerable groups. Where mechanisms such as social distancing and isolation are called for, it cannot be assumed that children and young people have a safe space to which they can retreat. Third, experience so far shows that providing simple, credible information on what the public should or must do is a core part of the strategies for slowing the spread of the virus. Quite rightly, many governments and health agencies are using digital platforms to engage the public, and to allow services such as schooling to be delivered by digital means. However, this assumes access to the internet, and yet our findings show that as few as one in four children and young people on the move had access to the Internet (and as low as 15% for 14-17 years old). Language and other cultural barriers were also seen to present a significant challenge for those who were outside of their country of origin. Communications and engagement campaigns therefore must also unlock non-digital assets and be aware of the need for linguistically and culturally relevant messaging. Boys play football near Hargeisa, Somaliland, a territory that has been particularly affected by ongoing drier and hotter conditions, with the delayed and projected below-average rains.Furthermore, not only are messages that are scientifically grounded important, but so are the messengers for effective communication: issues of trust are crucial in ensuring that people comply with key messaging. Our research suggests that police and government officials are among the least trusted groups for migrant children, while many more have confidence in social workers, religious groups, international charities and teachers. Therefore, it is imperative that governments continue to fund and support these actors to continue to provide much needed information and support to reach migrant children and young people. Fourth, even while we head into the eye of this particular storm it is also important to consider the medium to long-term economic consequences of the health pandemic. Economic concern was a contributing factor for why two in every three child or young person first moved from their home area. If economies are hard hit over the next few months, it is very likely that this will lead to an increase in children and young people being compelled to leave their homes in search of jobs and safety. The impacts of COVID-19 and policy responses on current migrants should not be underestimated. Already at the receiving end of stigma and discrimination, safe migration routes are only likely to shrink further, leaving migrant children and young people further exposed to risks of exploitation in order to facilitate their journeys. Our research points to some of the harms associated with smuggling and trafficking networks in the region. With humanitarian services already stretched far beyond capacity, the economic fallout will only create further negative consequences for those who are already vulnerable. Furthermore, with increasing border closures and regulation, migrant children and young people are likely to find it harder to be united with families who have already migrated or to return home safely. And with so much attention on the demands of a pandemic, mechanisms for protection – such that they are – will only be stretched thinner. ------------------------------------------------ The findings presented here are based on a DFID-funded project on Understanding the Perceptions, Experiences and Vulnerabilities of Children and Young People on the Move in the Horn of Africa. A comprehensive research report is currently being drafted and will be published in the second half of 2020. However, given the seriousness of the current pandemic, UNICEF Innocenti has produced this blog with analysis of relevant findings to provide useful insights to support governments and agencies responsible for protecting and supporting children on the move Additional resources UN Migration Network Statement ‘Covid-19 Does not discriminate, nor should our response’ (20 March 2020): https://migrationnetwork.un.org/statements/covid-19-does-not-discriminate-nor-should-our-response United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ‘Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): What you need to know about the virus to protect you and your family’. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/covid-19 Henrietta Fore (UNICEF) ‘Time is running out to protect refugees from a coronavirus crisis, Aljazeera, 31 March 2020. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/time-running-protect-refugees-coronavirus-crisis-200330063002696.html