Evaluation of UNICEF’s coverage and quality in complex humanitarian situations

2017-18; UNICEF; Multi-country

Itad is conducting the first-ever evaluation of UNICEF humanitarian action in complex humanitarian situations.


Itad has been commissioned by UNICEF to conduct an evaluation of the coverage and quality of UNICEF response in complex humanitarian situations.

Complex humanitarian situations refer to contexts that are multidimensional in nature – where multiple complexity factors converge that are political and politicised. Often in these environments, the most vulnerable people are located in hard-to-reach or the most insecure locations. As a result, the coverage and quality of humanitarian assistance is often a significant challenge, since insecurity and inaccessibility limit organisations’ capacity to implement, manage and adequately monitor humanitarian response.

Over time, UNICEF’s role in emergencies has grown to keep pace with escalating needs, and an increasing percentage of its humanitarian budget has been focused in complex humanitarian situations. In recent years, however, the organisation has increasingly faced complex humanitarian crises that have stretched its ability to respond. The challenges of managing around security/access constraints and quality of UNICEF’s programming have emerged in several recent UNICEF evaluations.

The purpose of this Itad evaluation is to provide a deeper, more systematic and objective analysis, across country contexts, of the extent to which UNICEF is succeeding or failing to reach affected populations with principled and high-quality programming in complex humanitarian situations; and to generate practical solutions for the improvement of the coverage and quality of UNICEF response to crises in complex humanitarian situations.

The evaluation will assess UNICEF performance in achieving coverage and quality in its humanitarian action based on a sample of complex high threat environments, including identifying enabling factors and challenges to UNICEF’s performance. It will also identify enabling factors and challenges to UNICEF fulfilling its protection mandate and role in complex humanitarian situations.

This is an important evaluation to UNICEF and will be used to generate consensus and a global action plan to improve UNICEF’s performance in its response to crises in complex humanitarian situations.


This evaluation has been designed to be:

  1. learning-focused to ensure the generation of practical solutions to support UNICEF HQ and Country Offices in improving the coverage and quality of its response.
  2. field-focused to ensure the evaluation adds as much value as possible to improvements and innovations at the field level.
  3. Participatory to ensure continued engagement of a range of UNICEF stakeholders throughout the evaluation.

The Itad team has developed an analytical framework that will explore the range of enablers and barriers to coverage and quality across a range of country extents. We will use a mixed-methods approach to data collection and analysis. Much of the data will be collected through key informant interviews (KIIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs), and the team will also collect quantitative data in the form of financial data and information generated from community-level discussions.

The evaluation team will conduct 12 country case studies (7 desk reviews and 5 field visits) across a range of complex humanitarian situations, the aim of which will be to identify good practice, challenges, innovations and lessons, and to build an evidence-based understanding of how challenges to delivering high-quality humanitarian response are being and should be addressed by UNICEF. In particular, we will apply an outcome harvesting approach as part of our field-level data collection and analysis that will enable us to provide a strong and triangulated evidence base to support an assessment of UNICEF performance and its contribution to results.

Read the evaluation report here.

Image © Humanitarian Aid in Donetsk. Photo Credit: UNICEF Ukraine/2015/Aleksey Filippov.

For more information please contact:

David Fleming
T: +44(0)1273 765262