Field Offices

Value and Reach of OCHA Field Presence

Strengthening the predictability and accountability of the international humanitarian system has been an OCHA priority since 2006, as reflected in the current Strategic Framework.

OCHA field and regional offices have been at the forefront of translating “humanitarian reform” into the normal way that humanitarian partners work together at the country level. In practice, resources are deployed to facilitate humanitarian country team development of inclusive humanitarian action plans and appeals, and contingency plans that, from the outset, build the cluster approach into planning. Day-to-day leadership is supported, so HC/RCs may effectively perform their complex duties. Millions of dollars are managed across the globe in country-based pooled mechanisms. Inter-cluster coordination and information management systems support crucial, time-sensitive decision-making processes. These are simply a few key elements that demonstrate the breadth of OCHA field presence support.

What is the value of OCHA coordination efforts in the greater scheme of the international humanitarian system? In 2008, OCHA work at the country level facilitated the coordination of humanitarian plans valued at $7.2 billion. OCHA field and regional presence cost less than 2% of that amount.

Field Offices: Middle East


Security improved markedly in 2008, with the number of incidents and civilian casualties reportedly declining by almost three-quarters from their peaks in 2007. Iraqi Security Forces assumed control of 13 out of 18 of the country’s provinces from the Multi-National Forces in Iraq (MNF-I). Nevertheless, sporadic violence and insurgent activity continued to target civilians, particularly in the central and northern regions. Basic social services, especially for IDPs and returnees, remained inadequate and sub-standard. While 195,890 IDPs and 25,370 refugees returned to their communities in 2008, approximately 2.8 million IDPs and two million refugees remain uprooted.

According to UNICEF, overall security improvements rendered nearly 98 percent of Iraq accessible. Still, humanitarian access continued to be restricted due to stringent regulations for the movement of United Nations staff. Improved access did allow OCHA and its partners to collect valuable information on the humanitarian situation, revealing both violence-induced and chronic vulnerabilities. Varied humanitarian needs also became evident in areas chronically deprived of investment in social services due to conflict, economic sanctions, neglect and environmental degradation.

Improved information collection and analysis in 2008 allowed OCHA and its partners to better analyze humanitarian trends in Iraq. The 2007 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA) revealed that although 6.4 million Iraqis remain at risk of food insecurity, the number of food-insecure Iraqis significantly declined from four million in 2005 to 930,000 in 2007. However, inadequate basic social services, including sub-optimal water and sanitation facilities, were partly responsible for the second successive cholera epidemic, which affected 12 of Iraq’s provinces.

Performance Evaluation

Predictable and Needs-based Humanitarian Financing

OCHA facilitated the preparation of CAPs for Iraq, supported several CERF requests and managed the Expanded Humanitarian Response Fund (ERF) for flexible and quick funding of unmet emergency needs. The consolidation of CAP appeals led to greater government involvement, improved donor coordination, and increased attention to the humanitarian needs of Iraqis.

Improved coordination structures at the global, regional, and national levels

In partnership with the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI), OCHA launched the Iraq Humanitarian Forum (IHF) to review the strategic and policy aspects of the humanitarian situation. Consultations on the formation of the Iraq Humanitarian Country Team continued. However, coordination mechanisms had less impact because of remote programming. Despite these constraints, OCHA established a presence in Baghdad and Erbil in mid-2008, and developed and led humanitarian coordination structures with United Nations agencies, NGOs, and donors in both locations, in addition to Amman. Coordination with regional and international partners was strengthened as exhibited by the production of the Pillar II (regional) of the 2009 Consolidated Appeal for Iraqi refugees.

Strengthened OCHA Preparedness (with greater incorporation of risk reduction approaches) and emergency response capacity

OCHA began consultations with partners on the development of an emergency response plan for hotspots in Iraq. OCHA also supported the Humanitarian Coordinator’s consultations with the government on the establishment of a national emergency preparedness and response structure. The OCHA-led Humanitarian Working Group coordinated emergency responses following military operations in Sadr City and Basra and maintained consultations with the National Operations Center.

Action-oriented analysis of humanitarian trends and emerging policy issues

OCHA IMU integrated within an inter-agency Information Analysis Unit, produced information products necessary for policy decision-making and operational coordination. These included: 3Ws, contact lists, maps, and emergency coordination information tools. OCHA led the analysis of the humanitarian context and needs that constitutes the basis of the 2008 and 2009 Consolidated Appeals. However, inter-agency information-sharing continued to be constrained by security concerns and incomplete partner contributions. Access restrictions limited the range and scope of data necessary to gain a complete picture of the humanitarian situation in the country.

More strategic advocacy of humanitarian principles and issues

OCHA led the development of a strategic advocacy plan and the inter-agency advocacy working group to advance protection and humanitarian response efforts in Iraq in 2008. Common messages were developed and several press releases highlighting protection concerns. Common messaging on issues in Iraq, however, remained a challenge due to the sensitivities surrounding the delicate operating environment.

Protection advanced at the global, regional, and national levels

OCHA provided support to the protection lead agency to establish a protection coordination mechanism, bringing together a range of actors involved in protection activities. This group meets regularly and its outputs feed a policy group that interfaces with the Iraqi authorities. OCHA also submits regular inputs for the protection of civilians and humanitarian access reports to the Security Council. OCHA provided technical inputs for the development of the Civil Military guidelines and led to the interface with the military in Iraq to address humanitarian need. Protection was also advanced with the preparation of the regional component of the 2009 Consolidated Appeal for Iraqi refugees in the region and in neighboring countries.

Strengthened Information Management based on common standards and best practices

OCHA Information Management Unit (IMU) partnered with the inter-agency Information Analysis Unit to provide continuing information and analysis of the humanitarian situation and activities in Iraq.

Occupied Palestinian territory

The year began with a renewed sense of optimism, following the resumption of peace talks between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), as well as the international community’s full endorsement of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) ambitious Reform and Development Plan (PRDP). Yet, humanitarian conditions did not improve during 2008. In large areas of oPt, they steadily declined — primarily for the most vulnerable.

The Israeli-imposed closure of the Gaza Strip crippled the private sector, affected basic services and infrastructure, and limited access to essential supplies. The rise in food prices and reduced domestic agricultural yields placed even further strain on oPt, despite large-scale food aid programs. And overall susceptibility increased, as demonstrated by food security surveys.

The ongoing internal Palestinian conflict exacerbated the humanitarian crisis. Despite Israeli Government steps to remove obstacles to movement in the West Bank, roadblocks and checkpoints rose steadily throughout the year. Humanitarian access was further restricted, particularly in East Jerusalem and areas separated by the Barrier. Meanwhile, four days before the end of 2008, Israeli military forces launched a massive combined operation in Gaza, resulting in additional loss of life, infrastructure damage, and humanitarian need.

Access remained the foremost constraint to all humanitarian actors, most notably in Gaza. This severely compromised OCHA ability to ensure effective and efficient delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Performance Evaluation

Action-oriented analysis of humanitarian trends and emerging policy issues

With ever greater numbers of Palestinians relying on humanitarian assistance, a substantive and reliable analysis of needs, priorities, and gaps in delivery is more essential than ever before. OCHA produced numerous information products based on thorough monitoring and analysis of ongoing humanitarian trends. Vetted and consolidated analytical inputs from multiple partners, OCHA humanitarian advocacy products have become the most relied-upon information sources for relief organizations, donors, and media.

OCHA written reports

  • The Protection of Civilians Report (weekly)
  • The Humanitarian Monitor (monthly)
  • Special Focus reports: Tightening Control on Economic Movement, January 2008; Lack of Permit Demolitions and Resultant Displacement in Area C, May 2008; Unprotected: Israeli settler violence against Palestinian civilians and their property, December 2008
  • Situation Reports on the Gaza Strip and West Bank (ad hoc)
  • Barrier Reports: The Humanitarian Impact of the West Bank Barrier, Update 8: Four years after the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice: joint OCHA-UNRWA report on the humanitarian impact of the Barrier

For OCHA Report Center visit

OCHA cartographical reports

  • West Bank Closure and Access Maps, September 2008
  • Barrier Projections, updated map, July 2008
  • West Bank and Gaza Strip governorates, closure and access booklet, April 2008
  • West Bank Closure Map, April 2008
  • Detailed maps to accompany the Special Reports and Special Focus reports, detailed above

For OCHA Report Center visit

More strategic advocacy of humanitarian principles and issues

OCHA led an advocacy working group under the HCT umbrella to generate more strategic and coordinated messages for the humanitarian community. Through a combined network of contacts, the sub-group contributed to greater awareness and influence regarding the pressing needs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The sub-group meets once a week and has become fundamental to HCT strategic messaging and planning. Priority issues have included: access and movement; Gaza closure; house demolitions; and medical staff access from the West Bank to East Jerusalem. OCHA also continued to co-chair the Advocacy and Public Information Committee comprising PI and advocacy staff of United Nations agencies. The APIC meets approximately once a month. It has planned United Nations wide-advocacy activities, statements signed by United Nations agencies, an information pamphlet on United Nations activities in the oPt, and a calendar of shared events.

Protection advanced at the global, regional, and national levels

With OCHA leading the protection cluster, the HCT developed a more strategic approach to protection and access issues, reflecting IASC policy goals regarding protection of civilians. Toward year-end, in assisting with humanitarian delivery and access, an Access and Protection Cell was being set up. It is to be based primarily within the OCHA Jerusalem field office. Improved documentation of access impediments and analysis of trends would facilitate humanitarian coordination and enable the HCT to more effectively address access difficulties with interlocutors.