Lessons Learned Workshop - 16 August 2016

The evaluation team would like to thank all those who have provided their support and input to this lessons learned exercise. We are particularly grateful for the constructive input from the Shelter Cluster Palestine and their members, ECHO, the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, the Ministry of Social Affairs, and community representatives.
Context overview
From July to August 2014, Gaza witnessed fifty-one days of hostilities, one the most destructive intensifications of
conflict since 1967. This resulted in an unprecedented scale of destruction, devastation and displacement. At the height
of the conflict, almost 500,000 people were internally displaced. The concentration of damage was mainly found along
the Armistice Line, however multiple districts located beyond this line had a vast majority of structures completely
Significant damage to housing and infrastructure as a result of the conflict, combined with nine years of blockade and
three major escalations of hostilities over the past six years, caused large-scale destruction to Gaza’s economy,
productive assets. In March 2013 Gaza was already facing a housing shortage of around 75,000 homes1. Data
collected during the final housing damage assessment from this conflict established that 11,000 housing units were
totally destroyed, 6,800 with severe damage, 5,700 with major damage and 147,500 with minor damage. Of these, a
total of 17,800 housing units were estimated to be uninhabitable.
Over the past two years, donors and aid actors have made significant efforts to provide humanitarian shelter assistance
to the affected population in Gaza, although a number of challenges, gaps and blockages remained. To coincide with
preparations for the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), the coordinators of the humanitarian shelter response,
Shelter Cluster Palestine and local authorities, requested REACH to lead a review and evaluation of the progress of
the shelter response since the 2014 hostilities.
Methodology and objectives
The objective of the evaluation was to measure the outcomes of the provision of emergency, temporary and durable
shelter assistance, to better understand the key achievements; establish best practices; identify residual response
gaps; and draw lessons learned and recommendations. The evaluation process has been divided into two phases: (1)
a qualitative participatory evaluation through a secondary data review, a lessons learned workshop, an online survey,
and purposively sampled semi-structured key informant interviews; (2) a quantitative evaluation through statistically
significant primary data collection at household level. This report is the result of the first phase of this evaluation.
Most actors recognised that the coordination framework for providing assistance had improved compared to
previous responses and since August 2014. The scale of the crisis was unprecedented but aid actors were able to
provide emergency shelter assistance in a timely manner, thanks to the effective coordination of the Emergency
Operation Centre (EOC) and the IDP working group. The detailed housing damage assessment which took place
shortly after the cease fire, was agreed upon and carried out in a coordinated manner between the Ministry of Public
Works and Housing (MoPWH), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Relief and Works
Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The figures of the damage assessment were quickly released which allowed
agencies to provide immediate assistance and enabled families to move out of emergency shelters into temporary
solutions: caravans, transitional shelters, rented accommodation or host families. The rapidity of the emergency shelter
assistance, the quick transition to temporary support systems and the coordinated damage assessment were
highlighted as some of the good practices of this response.
However a number of challenges limited the effectiveness of the support provided and reduced the overall
impact of the shelter response. Key informants and workshop participants explained that, although improved,
stronger coordination was required and that this remained a critical weakness of the shelter response.
Coordination between different aid actors and the authorities was initially well perceived in the EOC, but was later
compromised during the early recovery response. Many factors contributed to this including the “no contact policies”
with local authorities in Gaza; the presence multiple actors with different mandates; the reluctance of some actors to
further coordinate with others; the lack of adherence to agreed sectorial strategies and standards; as well as multiple
layers of government and sectors to coordinate with.
Furthermore, a lack of agreed key terminologies between reconstruction actors, such as categories of damage,
definitions of “household”, “family” or “housing units”, and the confusion around the definition of IDPs in Gaza had a
critical impact on humanitarian planning and implementation, shelter strategy, programming, selection of beneficiaries
and communication with communities.
The detailed housing damage assessment also presented some gaps in the type of information collected and the
process of data collection. The assessment did not collect socio-economic data or information on existing
housing condition and only focused on damage sustained by the housing units. This information gap probably
contributed to the lack of prioritisation of vulnerable families with few resources to recover, or living in sub-standard
conditions. Workshop participants also suggested improving the effectiveness of the assessment process by forming
assessment teams based on geographical areas, rather than based on the status of the affected population, refugee
or non-refugee.
Shelter Response
The protracted nature of the Gaza crisis, the nine years of blockade, the three conflict escalations, the restrictions on
movement and import of construction materials combined with the lack of follow through on donor pledges from the
Cairo conference – which stood at only 40% in March 2016 – created an unpredictable and challenging response
environment for aid actors.
By August 2016, two years since the cease-fire, about 50% of households who endured minor or major housing
damage2 had received cash for repairs, with some also benefiting from technical support. However, only 31% of
households from the severe and totally damage caseload3, most likely those displaced due their housing being
uninhabitable, had received such assistance. The slow pace of shelter assistance for temporary and durable shelter
maybe be explained by a number of factors.
Information gaps from the housing damage assessment combined with the weak monitoring culture of shelter
assistance and the lack of sectorial agreed monitoring framework: This limited humanitarian actors’ ability to
review and adapt their response strategy to the funding constraints and material restrictions.
• Weak strategic prioritisation of vulnerable groups and slow transition between temporary to durable shelter
solutions: Initially, major actors were prioritising households in need of minor repairs, although families who endured
severe and total damage to their homes represented the most vulnerable households, as their houses were rendered
uninhabitable and most were considered displaced. This prioritisation of assistance may be explained by several factors
including higher numbers of minor repairs, generally smaller cash quantities and less technical assistance required.
Eventually aid actors changed their response strategy, and switched their targeting from minor to severe damage but
this was mostly driven by funding constraints rather than response monitoring and humanitarian needs.