Field Note: Implementing a Humanitarian Needs Assessment Framework for Early Childhood Development: Informing Intervention Design for Displaced Rohingya Communities in Bangladesh
Recent literature focused on education in conflict-affected settings firmly establishes the link between early childhood interventions, poverty reduction, and the effects of adverse childhood experiences, particularly for those exposed to violent conflict. A key factor of effective interventions targeting young children and their families, and thus the long-term sustainability of behavior change, is how those interventions are received by local populations. Despite the importance of understanding local perspectives, needs assessments are often deprioritized when the focus is on meeting the immediate need for safety, food, water, and shelter. In the absence of a needs assessment, programming is developed without understanding the key priorities and motivations of the communities served. Given that the average length of protracted refugee situations is now more than 20 years, early childhood development programming designed without local perspectives brings with it the possibility of long-term repercussions, little community buy-in, and, consequently, limited to no impact. Therefore, the long-term costs of not doing needs assessments in humanitarian contexts are likely to far exceed the initial investments in conducting such research. In acknowledgment of these opportunities and constraints, this article presents a framework for conducting a needs assessment in a humanitarian setting, along with illustrative findings that underscore the value of seeking greater understanding of a community before designing early childhood development programming. Using a needs assessment to inform the design of an early childhood development intervention for displaced Rohingya communities living in Bangladesh, this article uses the design of that assessment to provide a framework for operationalizing needs assessments in humanitarian settings.