Bridging the Gap: The role of local faith actors in humanitarian response

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We are pleased to announce the launch of a new project, bringing together faith and non-faith based humanitarian organisations in South Sudan.

The ongoing conflict within South Sudan, now over four years old, continues to have a devastating impact on the South Sudanese population. Over four million people have been displaced and seven million require humanitarian assistance and protection. 

Local and national organisations have the potential to contribute significantly to humanitarian response in South Sudan through their proximity to disaster-affected communities, their understanding of culture and language, and their sensitivity to political and social dynamics. However, to a large extent the South Sudan humanitarian system remains internationally led, consistently recognising the role of just a few national NGOs. The barriers that prevent national organisations from being more involved are compounded by the difficult operating context.

Faith actors in humanitarian response

Bridging the Gap is designed to bring together national and international faith and non-faith based actors in South Sudan, to increase understanding, trust, coordination and collaboration in humanitarian response and recovery. Faith actors are a critical component of first and lasting response in humanitarian situations. They typically have a breadth and depth of reach, authority and a continuity of presence far beyond many international and even national organisations. They are already often active as first responders, but can struggle to be recognised in humanitarian response.

During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, communities were afraid, felt uninformed and mistrusted the health workers who were trying to explain the disease and importance of safe burial. The crisis worsened due to lack of engagement, and families often hid or illegally buried their loved ones. However, the engagement of faith leaders – both imams and pastors – provided a transformational role in the Ebola response.

Bridging the Gap

Taking place over a year, from October 2018-2019, Bridging the Gap brings together a consortium, funded by the Government of Belgium and led by Tearfund in Belgium, including Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), Joint Learning Initiative (JLI), University of Leeds (UoL), RedR UK and Tearfund in the UK to engage faith actors, including faith-based organisations (FBOs), faith leaders, faith communities and places of worship, within the humanitarian sector. By addressing the gap from both sides, this project will support faith actors to play a more integrated role in humanitarian response and recovery.

Training and workshops led by RedR UK will be developed to enable faith actors and humanitarian actors to collaboratively identify ways of working together and coordinating efforts.

Faith actors

The project will give faith-based actors the opportunity to:

● Increase understanding of the humanitarian context and ways of working e.g. sustainable development goals, cluster approach, disaster risk reduction, needs analysis in emergencies

 ● Raise awareness of humanitarian principles and standards e.g. Core Humanitarian Standards and Red Cross Red Crescent Code of Conduct

● Identify ways of improving coordination with humanitarian organisations and practitioners.

Non-faith actors

It will also offer learning opportunities for non-faith actors to:

● Increase understanding of faith context and intrinsic aspects of faith at national, local, community and household levels

● Raise awareness of the importance of faith in a humanitarian response

● Identify ways of improving coordination with faith actors and people of faith.

National organisations in South Sudan will also be given the opportunity to apply for grants to support their work. The project will help to support the development and implementation of this work through ongoing support and coaching.

Project Partners