Terms of Reference Livelihood Program Planning and assessment – Syria

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Date de publication : 23/11/2020

  1. Background
  • Situation overview in Food security and Livelihood sector in North East of Syria

Over 9 years of conflict in Syria has resulted in significant destruction of the country’s infrastructure, socio-economic dynamics and opportunities, basic services and social cohesion. The last figures published by UNOCHA indicate that 11.7 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance throughout Syria[1], 5 million of whom are children[2]. An estimated 6.5 million Syrians are food insecure and an additional 2.5 million people are at risk of food insecurity. The main drivers of food insecurity in Syria are a set of interrelated factors related to the deteriorating economic environment, loss of livelihoods and reduced production capacity, limited physical and financial access to food, high prices and inflation, reduced purchasing power and continuous livelihood depletion of the most vulnerable populations.

Since the end of 2019, spontaneous returns have been recorded throughout NES, with 118,936 returns to Raqqa and Hassakeh governorates.[3] For host communities, IDPs and returnees alike, the need for stability in essential infrastructure and services is imperative to reduce vulnerabilities and the need to resort to negative coping mechanisms. Syria’s economy is teetering on the verge of collapse. The cost of living continues to rise as does unemployment. Casual labour opportunities – which is the only source of income for many households in NEs – are increasingly scarce. The Syrian pound has dramatically devalued over the last year, especially from June 2020 as a result of the US imposed Caesar Sanctions that came into force mid-that-month. The SYP has fallen from $1=SYP587 in June 2019 to as low as 3,700 SYP in June 2020. The cost of living has sharply increased (+50% between September 2019 and March 2020). Many among the younger generation were unable to complete their education and are therefore especially disadvantaged when trying to secure skilled job opportunities. The most recent socio-economic survey overview from the Humanitarian Needs Assessment Programme[4], reported that 55% of households in NES identified the lack of skills as a key barrier to finding employment.

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to further exacerbate North East Syria’s fragile situation with a potentially disastrous impact on vulnerability levels of communities across the region. COVID-19 related curfews and other restrictions have further weakened the economy, leading to business closures and the loss of livelihoods.

The above mentioned situation is confirmed by recent data reported by the NES humanitarian coordination mechanism. REACH humanitarian situation overview in April 2020, reported livelihood as the second top needs priority for 73% of interviewed KII in residents and IDPs communities. Physical access to food markets proved a significant barrier in April 2020, with one quarter of KIs reporting that households were unable to access food markets in the assessed location. Moreover, 93% of KIs reported barriers to physically accessing food markets for IDPs and 76% for residents. Affordability of essential food items remained the most commonly reported barrier to accessing sufficient food by far in April, as reported by over 70% of KIs for both IDPs and residents. High price of foods was also the most commonly reported barrier to feeding young children, reported by 91% of KIs reporting challenges[5].

REACH data on mobility and needs monitoring for the month of May 2020, reported 46 percent of the new IDPs cited economic hardship as the predominate factor encouraging displacement, unlike previous months, where individuals were likely to flee violence. Consistent with regional trends and IDP needs, returnees also cited livelihood opportunities as their priority needs. On-going market closures and curfews further impact households, limiting their ability to secure employment and meet basic needs. Livelihood has been reported has the first priority for 63% of the new IDPs and 58% of the returnees[6].

  • Situation Overview in Food Security and Livelihood sector in Ar-Raqqa Governorate

Since the Self-Administration (SDF/SDC) has taken the governance of the territory and particularly of Raqqa (RCC) in October 2017, and despite the efforts engaged to bring basic services back, the area and the city of Raqqa have to face tremendous challenges, with most of the schools, health centers, administrative buildings still under rubbles. The remnants of the war are still very visible, with households who relocated or found housing in destroyed buildings. Ar-Raqqa Governorate economic environment has been particularly affected by the conflict. The area, which used to flourish thanks to its large industries in cotton, cement, sugar and to be preeminent processing center in all northern Syria, saw all the factories collapsed and demolished by the war. The Governorate who also used to count on its agricultural capacities has seen the sector very impacted by the war, while main irrigation stations and canals were damaged or destroyed, and capacities to rehabilitate these infrastructures at Authorities level is very low.

Between November 2016 and October 2017, the campaign to expel the group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS or DAESH) from Ar-Raqqa governorate in North East Syria led to an escalation of conflict across the area. Conflict resulted in multiple phases of significant displacement of civilians and resulted in high levels of need of both the displaced and those that remained in areas of direct conflict. Furthermore, the ability of host communities across Ar-Raqqa governorate to absorb internally displaced persons (IDPs) became increasingly stretched as their number grew. The whole population of Ar-Raqqa over 375,000 persons were displaced within and from the governorate between November 2016 and September 2017. IDPs fled to territory that came under control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in previous phases of fighting (mainly from Hama, Homs, Deir-Ez-Zor). All of Raqqa city suffered from intense airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition, the infrastructure was destroyed, as were more than 75 % of civilian homes. With conflict reducing across the governorate, thousands of IDPs returned their communities of origin, likely to locations in need of post-conflict reconstruction and with severely limited or collapsed basic services. With regards to the food security and livelihood sector the key findings are summarized below[7]:

  • Food security: Key food commodities are available in markets across Ar-Raqqa Governorate, however residents’ financial access to food remains a constraint. Precarity levels of the Returnees to Ar-Raqqa city are high and incomes are low (average of 17 USD/month), they suffer inability to purchase enough food to meet their household’s needs. Returnees also face a difficult path to rebuilding their livelihoods. Ar-Raqqa city offers limited job opportunities and many households are resorting to daily casual labor to sustain their household’s income. Poorer households eating less preferred and less expensive foods as well as limiting portion sizes to make ends meet. Child labor is also very common – one of the most significant protection issue in the area – as many schools are still shut and households’ income is very low.
  • Livelihood: The situation remains difficult for the majority of the population of the Governorate of Ar-Raqqa because of low production and low income compared to prices. Although significant efforts were made on electricity or water for instance, these basic services are far from being fully functional and not enough stable for commercial businesses to return and develop. Poor conditions in IDP camps have been driving people to return to their homes in the city, but in very vulnerable housing environments, having lost their properties rights, and facing high unemployment. Significant other barriers continue to impact the return, such as remaining contaminations of ERW/IEDs and a general lack of livelihoods preventing them to improve and enhance their living conditions. The industrial part of Raqqa largely looted during the war let the city without factories. Large-scaled cotton and grain processing facilities do not exist anymore. In the meantime, local authorities have no current planning processes for the reconstruction of the city. With regards to opportunities for the youth, Ar-Raqqa remains a sanctuary with a sizeable youth presence but with no specific mechanisms in place to engage them.
  • Agriculture & Livestock are the most comprehensive human activity in the province of Raqqa, and therefore need more attention after the deterioration caused by the events that hit the governorate, its farmers and breeders. In addition to the drop in agricultural outputs as a result of heavy military operations, other factors like drought or environmental factors have progressively lead to an agricultural productivity underperforming, and negatively affecting employment and food security. Furthermore, a general lack of materials and agricultural inputs is largely acknowledged.

Al-Raqqa governorate contains a large number of qualified professionals, especially among the youth generation. Those in need of social and professional revitalization that enable them to be engaged in the local market and overcome the negative effects let by ISIS on the province.

  • SI operational presence in Ar-Raqqa Governorate

Solidarites International is present in NES and in Ar-Raqqa Governorate since 2017.

Since 2019, in Ar-Raqqa Governorate, SI strategy of response is focused on WASH (WASH in emergency and Rehabilitation of Water Stations) and Shelter sectors (distribution of Shelter kits and Private shelters repairs). At the current date, SI interventions target informal settlements (16) representing about 17000 persons and villages (6) by WASH in emergency activities and Ar-Raqqa city by private shelter repairs (about 250 households).

Since the beginning of 2020, based on the evidence coming from SI post-distribution monitoring and needs assessments in targeted areas as well as information shared by the NES humanitarian coordination mechanism, the need to adapt SI current strategy of intervention becomes a key priority for the organization. Despite the humanitarian assistance provided to affected communities, the needs situation of displaced, hosting communities, residents and returnees is evolving:

  • IDPs in informal settlements and hosting communities are fully dependent from the humanitarian assistance. The lack of access to food and incomes is a key priority reported by affected people during SI PDM and needs assessments. IDPs are lacking access to work opportunities and consequently to markets. Irregular daily works and family livestock activities remain the main sources of livelihood.
  • Residents and hosting communities. Since the start of the crises, the humanitarian assistance has prioritized IDPs, leaving residents and hosting communities behind. Nevertheless, the protracted crises and the collapse of the socio-economic environment, including job opportunities, had a major negative impact on their capacities to access foods, markets and incomes. At the date of this analysis, the mentioned discrepancy reported in the assistance delivered to affected groups is starting to influence social cohabitation dynamics, with a risk of potential escalation of inter-community tensions between residents/hosting communities and displaced.
  • Returnees. The return movement is progressively increasing thanks to improved security conditions. In the same time, the support of returnees to reestablish their living conditions in the areas of origins remains insufficient to ensure a stable return. Without an effective and adequate support to the return, the risk of new displacement remains very high, with a further deterioration of affected people living conditions and vulnerabilities.

According to the analysis above, SI objective for 2020 is to adapt its strategy in Ar-Raqqa Governorate to extend its response to the livelihood sector by a progressive shift from the emergency logic of intervention towards the early recovery approach.

Key livelihood opportunities of intervention and potential targeted areas have been already pre-identified by SI field teams, based on the current operational presence, in-depth knowledge of the context and secondary data analysis shared by the humanitarian communities, in summary as follows:

  • Key activities to explore
  • Existing opportunities to strengthen the access to employment by the support of small business and handcraft activities in favor of all above mentioned groups, facilitating the shift from a “status” to a vulnerability-based targeting;
  • Existing opportunities to support households in the development of livestock activities, according to their knowledge and socio-economic habits.
  • Existing opportunities for the development of inter-sectorial approach by the combination of WASH and Livelihood sectors with a focus on infrastructure rehabilitations needs in support of the existing Irrigation Systems. Potentially in partnership with NGOs involved in major agricultural work on the mid-/long-term (SI’s capacity to handle/conduct such change is unlikely as we’re speaking about large farm production, request to make irrigation to go from flooding to more water-scarce methodologies, agricultural products transformation, support to market chains, etc..)
  • Key targeted areas
  • Rural areas, including villages and hosting communities. 9 villages have been pre-identified by the field team on the basis of the knowledge of local context. The idea is to prioritize 2 /3 villages in the North and West sides of Raqqa. These areas have been “neglected” by the humanitarian assistance and their vulnerability has seriously increased in the past years. The risk of an escalation of tensions with IDPs communities is becoming very high with major concerns in terms of Do Not Harm. It’s to be kept in mind that the Livelihoods systems in the 2 sides of Raqqa mentioned are drastically different. Among them, the North very much oriented and specialized for irrigated grain production would rather need massive infrastructural work likely to benefit large-scale farmers.
  • Raqqa City. The ongoing humanitarian assistance provided in the city is still mainly focused on the emergency approach. Despite this, several opportunities in livelihood could be explored and developed. Key targeted areas could be identified according to the level of vulnerability and impact of the crises in the different neighborhoods of the capital town.

2.       Purpose of the Consultancy

The purpose of this ToR is to support SI in its understanding of the socio-economic environment (urban, rural) and in developing methods to undertake livelihood work in Ar-Raqqa Governorate. The ToR outlines the need to conduct assessments and formulate strategies for developing a livelihood program in Ar-Raqqa Governorate in phase with the current needs and existing opportunities.

In this context, SI plans a short-term consultancy (up to 3 months extendable depending on needs) to help developing SI livelihood strategy in Ar-Raqqa Governorate with a focus on the followings:

  • Tailored needs and capacities analysis in the livelihood sector according to the specific environment (Ar-Raqqa City and villages in rural areas, and to a lesser extent informal settlements) and affected groups (hosting communities, residents and returnees, IDPs)
  • Design of livelihood activities tailored on the basis of needs and capacities analysis.

The person will support livelihood scoping and assessments to explore both short-term and long-term livelihood solutions for the mentioned target groups in the proposed areas. One of the expected outcomes of the support would be a clear plan for the short-term and medium term livelihood interventions, both in rural and urban contexts.

3.       Roles and Responsibilities:

  • Conduct tailored needs analysis in the proposed locations of intervention to provide an in-depth understanding of affected people vulnerabilities, needs priorities and preferences. The consultant could rely on the following sources of information: SI needs assessment primary data in Informal settlements and hosting communities/residents (July 2020); secondary data analysis from the NES Food Security and Livelihood and CASH working groups as well as REACH and other key humanitarian/development key stakeholders’ studies and researches.
  • Develop detailed and tailored response options according to the different environments of intervention to propose the most appropriate programme intervention(s), and design and deliver early-stage programme design and plans of action – including associated tools – as
  • Develop appropriate targeting criteria and mechanisms to ensure the needs of identified vulnerable groups are
  • Liaise with local authorities, research institutes, UN agencies, government bodies and clusters at base
  • Ensure that the different modalities of intervention are taken into consideration (in-kind, voucher and cash approaches) as well as the Multi-Purpose CASH approach.
  • Ensure a multi-sector approach to develop/identify programmatic links between livelihood and the other SI core sectors of intervention, such as WASH and Shelter.

The above mentioned responsibilities should be accomplished ensuring the full respect of the principles and requirements of the following international standards: Gender in Humanitarian Action, Inclusion and Accessibility of People with Disability and Special Needs and Accountability to Affected People

4.       Expected Outputs

The expected outputs of this consultancy are as follows:

  • A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis based on evidence coming from primary and secondary data analysis.
  • Analysis of livelihood opportunities for vulnerable and affected population in Ar-Raqqa Governorate (rural and urban areas) with reference to the pre-identified locations; identify potential sectors and markets for engagement for income and employment; map and analyse key livelihood stakeholders
  • Technical support for the development and submission of key proposals planned during autumn season (September-October 2020) to nourish SI analysis and response strategy design for 2021 fundraising.
  • A clear vision and end results for livelihood work for vulnerable community that is compatible with SI’s capacity to implement and coherent with the SI sector strategy in NES. Define short- term and medium term expected results and strategies with key indicators to measure them; propose budge and human resources to implement the
  • A visibility on operational and financial requirements for the implementation of the activities;
  • Documentation of findings and recommendations in form of a report and presentation to field and country team and technical advisors; incorporate inputs to the

The above mentioned products should meet the principles and requirements of the following international standards: Gender in Humanitarian Action, Inclusion and Accessibility of People with Disability and Special Needs and Accountability to Affected People.

5.       Methodology

The consultant will propose a detailed methodology and tools during the inception phase of the consultancy to discuss and finalize with Ar-Raqqa Field Coordinator, the DCD-Programs and the CD and other members of the teams.

According to flight availability, KR-I and NES movements policies/restrictions, the consultancy would be implemented by remote and/or in the field.

6.       Deliverables

  • Planning: Inception Report with tools and detailed methodology
  • Assessment: Livelihood assessment report for Ar-Raqqa livelihood program (main report 10-12 pages with an executive summary 2-3 pages; recommendations supported by annexes with detailed analysis such as stakeholder analysis, gender analysis, policy analysis, risks etc.; a power point to share the findings);
  • Strategy: Syria livelihood strategy for short and medium term-objectives, (SWOT, priorities, strategies, activities, risks and mitigation; resource and capacity plan);
  • Implementation: Technical support for the development of new funding opportunities reported during the period of the consultancy.

Due to specific fund raising requirements, the consultant will be requested to provide a first draft of the needs analysis and response strategy framework, after 1 month and half of mission to support SI in the development of new proposals expected in September 2020.

7.       Time frame

The estimated time of the consultancy is 60 days. Indicatively, the consultancy is planned to start on ASAP

8.       Consultant profile

  • A mix of emergency food security and vulnerable livelihoods and long-term/resilient livelihood program planning and implementation experience in the Middle
  • Livelihood assessment and strategy development skills. Experience in developing strategies for program that are in transition from humanitarian to long-term development would be a
  • Good understanding of livelihoods programming in NES with a focus on Ar-Raqqa Governorate.
  • Excellent coordination (internal and external), facilitation and communication
  • Previous knowledge/experience with Solidarites Internationale is desirable.
  • Eligible to smoothly enter and work in

 11.   Contact

 Interested consultants may express their interest by sending an email to the following address: dcd.prog@solidarites-syria.org and mvernusse@solidarites.org  expressly mentioning « Syria Livelihood Consultancy »

[1] Humanitarian Needs Overview 2019, https://hno-syria.org/#severity-of-needs.

[2] UNICEF Syria Crisis Humanitarian Situation Report, Year-End, 2019

[3] OCHA, Syrian Arab Republic: North East Syria Displacement (18 December 2019)

[4] Spring 2020 report series socio-economic overview – HNAP/Syria

[5] Reach Humanitarian situation overview, April 2020.

[6] REACH, Mobility and Needs monitoring, May 2020.

[7] Ar-Raqqa Needs Overview, Al-Ameen for Humanitarian Support, April-May 2018.