The overwhelming majority of research and analysis in emergencies has been conducted on a snapshot basis. Studies are normally based on one-off interviews or surveys, and populations in emergencies have rarely been followed over time. Much of this is to do with the difficulties of research in war zones and the perceived short-term nature of emergencies. However, many emergencies go on for many years making it possible to attempt to collect longitudinal data on a sample population. Of course, there may be both practical and ethical difficulties involved in such an endeavour, but in the absence of such research, our understanding of the impact of disasters and people's ability to cope with them in the medium term is severely limited.
Much humanitarian research is focused on what aid agencies do, and consists of interviews with aid agency staff and reviews of aid agency documents. The views of people affected by emergencies are more rarely heard. Livelihoods and food security assessments are also usually conducted on a one-off basis. Thus, despite the growing sophistication of livelihoods assessment techniques there is still very little work which gives a picture of how livelihoods adapt over time during ongoing crises.
The project approach
The study, led by the Humanitarian Policy Group at ODI, will follow 30 households from two communities to investigate the main economic, social and political issues affecting their livelihoods. Northern Uganda was selected because it is a major, long-running and neglected humanitarian emergency. Although peace talks are now being held, for the civilian population the next few years will be a difficult period. Humanitarian assistance will remain important, irrespective of whether there is a transition towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
The project is being conducted in partnership with Evidence for Development, Mercy Corps, and a local research organisation.