Needs Assessment

Needs Assessment

Thematic Evaluation Report

The Role of Needs Assessment in the Tsunami Response

International humanitarian assistance should address the needs of the affected populations. To know those needs, be they for immediate life saving or for recovery, a systematic assessment must be carried out.

In the tsunami response, initial assessments of immediate humanitarian needs were often too late and too limited in scope to influence the decision making of donors or the setting of priorities among humanitarian actors. Overall assessments of longer term recovery needs, especially the assessment of damage and economic impact and some sectoral studies (eg, communicable diseases, food needs and fishing, among others) were more systematic and produced baseline data that is still serving as a reference for reconstruction.

Internationally, decisions with far reaching consequences for the intended 'beneficiaries' were based on political or public opinion considerations resulting from anecdotal coverage by the mass media. Coordinating agencies were often reluctant to encourage donors and actors to discontinue visible but unnecessary or counterproductive activities.

Locally, an overly generous response from the international community created a strong competition for visible spending opportunities. As a result, humanitarian actors did not share critical information on unmet needs. Addressing the operational shortcomings of needs assessments must be completed through partnership with professional mass media as well as a campaign to educate the public on how to be an effective donor.