Understanding the humanitarian effects of violence on vulnerable children and women in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)

Organisation: Save The Children

Location: Project based in UK and Central America. Testing in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico.

Type of grant: Core – recognition

Status: Completed


The innovation is a pilot study which will allow Save the Children (SC) to understand if the effects of widespread violence -as a result of street gangs (“maras”), organised criminal-groups and drug cartels- on vulnerable children and women in LAC can be analysed as a humanitarian problem. If so, what approaches are useful to respond efficiently to the specific characteristics and dynamics of the phenomena in order to satisfy the needs of the vulnerable people affected by this type of violence?

What humanitarian need is being addressed?

Assistance in the traditional way: ensuring children and women live in a safe and secure environment where they are protected from elements of this silent humanitarian crisis and are able to reach their full potential.

Our innovation will change the way SC and other interested agencies perceive the issue of urban violence in LAC. It aims to propose changes in programme design, so that more suitable responses, which meet children and women’s needs, can be implemented with the aim of strengthening their capacity to flourish in such environments.

What is the innovative solution?

We aim for greater recognition that urban violence in contexts such as Central America and Mexico can be analysed as a humanitarian problem, and will endeavour to use this humanitarian lens to create solutions to meet the needs of vulnerable women and children affected by this crisis.

We aim for a paradigm shift to include elements that were not previously considered in this type of crisis, and to change the way SC –and others – perceive and respond to the problem of urban violence in LAC. Our overarching aim is to ensure that we are supporting the most vulnerable people affected by violence, in the best possible way. To do this, we must understand the problem in its entirety, and will therefore complete a humanitarian needs analysis.

The pilot focuses predominantly on Mexico and Central America, the sub-region most affected by chronic violence, though it will be relevant to other regions in LAC that present a similar pattern. It is considered to be the first step in designing informed humanitarian interventions to respond to the problem of other situations of violence in this region.

How does the innovation build on and improve existing humanitarian practice?

For decades the primary focus of relief in the region has been on responses to natural disasters and more basic livelihood priorities. Violence has not been front and centre.

We know that, on the ground, there are innovative and successful practices concerning the other situations of violence, but the information is not currently collated. The magnitude of the problem needs to be evaluated. It is necessary therefore to include this issue in the humanitarian community agenda, to ensure that relevant agencies working in LAC incorporate violence-in-urban-settings into their humanitarian response strategies and programming.

This desk study intends to kick-start discussions among humanitarian actors in the region to shift their understanding of what is needed to address the growing problem of other situations of violence and their devastating effects on vulnerable women and children in LAC.

What materials or research outputs are likely to be produced?’

Development of multimedia advocacy materials ranging from case studies and policy briefs.

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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