Humanitarian organisations can face obstacles when trying to access people in need of assistance and protection. Insecurity is a major challenge for a number of operations. Others include onerous administrative procedures, inadequate logistics and lack of funding.

May 30, 2016 Delivery and Access

There are various obstacles which compromise humanitarian actors’ ability to deliver assistance and protection such as, collecting data, monitoring programmes, and ensuring accountability to affected people. Other challenges range from insufficient logistics support, bad weather, prohibitive cultural norms, inadequate staff capacity, a lack of funding to challenges, as well as insecurity and bureaucratic impediments.

Compromises are often required by organisations to secure and maintain access. The parts of the response which are normally most affected include data collection, programme monitoring, accountability to affected people and the timeliness of delivery.

Humanitarian organisations in Syria had little direct access to the people affected by the crisis. In order to reach the five million people in hard-to-reach and besieged areas, organisations rely heavily on national and local partners for cross-border and cross-line operations. In Yemen, most UN agencies and international NGOs have limited presence outside of the capital, Sana’a. The need to ‘stay and deliver’ in insecure and complex environments is accepted. How it is done, is less well understood.

OPR and STAIT missions have found that Humanitarian Coordinators and Humanitarian Country Teams (HCTs) have been more successful at addressing access obstacles where they work together. Important enablers include HCT access strategies, adhering to a principled approach and to negotiate with all parties to the conflict.

"The need to ‘stay and deliver’ in insecure and complex environments is accepted. How it is done, is less well understood."

Similarly, humanitarian leaders use programme criticality and security management assessments to help them decide whether the benefit of an action outweighs the risk involved. New operating modalities and partnerships are also being employed, especially with local and national NGOs.

In the STAIT webinar, ‘Access: Are we delivering where the needs are?’ Kevin Kennedy, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Whole of Syria set out some practical steps for dealing with access challenges. He was complemented by Sophie Solomon, Civil-Military Coordinator with OCHA Mali, and Lucia Goldsmith, the NGO forum coordinator in South Sudan. Some tips which may be applicable in other contexts include:

Do you have any examples to share on prioritisation in field operations? Please email them to



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