Humanitarian access to needs in other situations of violence

Due to high levels of criminal violence, certain regions in the North of Central America (NCA) are facing significant humanitarian needs. Both the increases in asylum applications lodged by people fleeing the region, as well as large collective displacements such as the recent migrant caravan, point to an unbearable situation for many in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. In some areas, insecurity prevents national governments from entering communities and providing basic services, such as education and healthcare.

The conditions generated by criminal violence have been classified as ‘other situations of violence’ by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or ‘situations of chronic violence’ by other actors, and are relatively new operational contexts for humanitarian actors, whose presence in the region has been previously focused on migration, development and poverty reduction. In these situations, where criminal groups control territories, and the victims of violence and displacement cannot or do not want to identify themselves because of fear, how do humanitarian organisations operate? How do they access affected areas? How can they ensure that they reach the most vulnerable people? This report highlights the best practices and challenges in humanitarian access in the NCA, and intends to improve the humanitarian response to the needs of people affected by violence and displacement in the region.

Key Messages

  • Humanitarian programmes in communities affected by violence are extremely limited
    in their content, scope and impact. 95% of the organisations interviewed reported that there are areas where they cannot work due to insecurity.

  • The main challenges to humanitarian access are: invisible borders between
    territories controlled by criminal groups; large numbers of criminal actors in small regions; the need to secure acceptance from criminal groups; difficulties in identifying people that do not independently seek support, either due to fear or due to a lack of incentive linked to the high levels of impunity.

  • The majority of community workers and organisations working directly in
    communities affected by violence communicate indirectly with criminal groups. However, there are no strategies, consistencies or best practises in these interactions.

  • Most humanitarian activities take place in the most accessible areas of
    communities, such as schools or community centres.



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