Mountain landscape

Adapting the Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS) to humanitarian settings

Measuring violence in humanitarian settings to improve prevention and response

Girl in refugee camp shadow

Exceptionally vulnerable to violence

Children who have been affected by humanitarian crises are exceptionally vulnerable to violence. However, rigorous studies are limited, and more data is needed to draw major conclusions that can inform effective prevention and response efforts.

Over the past decade, the Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS) process has revolutionized how the world measures, understands, and responds to sexual violence against children.

The surveys are led by national governments, with technical assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as part of the Together for Girls partnership.

To date, they have been implemented in over 20 countries across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. The surveys provide nationally-representative data on violence against children and youth, but have generally excluded humanitarian-affected populations.

First-ever humanitarian VACS in Uganda and Ethiopia

In 2020, Together for Girls, CDC, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), with support from experts across multiple disciplines, developed implementation guidance for adapting the VACS process to humanitarian settings.

Using the implementation guidance, the Baobab Research Program Consortium, led by the Population Council, is implementing the first-ever VACS in humanitarian settings. With funding from the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the humanitarian VACS will be carried out in Ugandan and Ethiopian refugee settings. Together for Girls and CDC, with funding from Global Affairs Canada, are collaborating with the Population Council on the humanitarian VACS in Uganda.

The humanitarian VACS data will provide critical insights into the magnitude and circumstances of violence against children, adolescents, and young people, whether and how they access services. The findings will also provide information on the factors that make children and adolescents more vulnerable to violence and how experiencing violence is related to various health, social, and other key outcomes.

Humanitarian VACS guidance

As of October 2022, data collection for the humanitarian VACS in Uganda has been completed and findings will be published in 2023. Planning is underway for data collection in Ethiopia.