Improving the quality of WFP Emergency Operations

It is being recognised more and more that we need to improve the ways in which we measure and document emergency programme efficiency. In particular we need to include an assessment of what people may be doing to survive and of the direct or indirect effects that programmes may have on beneficiaries and local people. Relying on traditional impact and process indicators like nutritional status or amount of food delivered is no longer enough. During food emergencies, affected populations may have to get involved in all sorts of activities to survive. Some of these may be dangerous or considered unacceptable, while others may be damaging to local communities. It is therefore important to find out what effect an emergency intervention may or may not be having in the broadest possible sense. The types of impact and process indicator typically monitored in emergencies may also need to be expanded.

Because of this WFP intends to progressively introduce into it's emergency programmes mechanisms which allow the regular monitoring of simple and practically useful performance indicators. The term "performance" indicator is used here to include: impact indicators, e.g. nutritional status, process indicators, e.g. food supplied, and effect indicators, e.g. increased rates of prostitution to make up for inadequate rations. This should facilitate decisions making at Country Office level on programme direction, additional intervention measures and phasing out food assistance, etc. The monitoring of performance indicators is vital for assessing programme efficiency and for informing decisions about necessary changes to the programme. Guidelines are now being prepared by WFP on the basis of case studies where a number of indicators have been tested.

A case study on indicators in eastern Zaire (Goma operation) was constructed at WFP headquarters following a joint UNHCRIWFP assessment mission in October 1996. It has now been finalised. The major finding of the exercise was that it is not sufficient to use nutritional and health indicators alone to measure adequacy of food interventions. Here, the provision of an adequate ration, proved essential not only in maintaining a satisfactory nutritional situation but also in preventing a worsening relationship between refugees and the local community and further instability in the region. The greater the need for women to complement their general ration, the more they appeared to be the victims of violence, sexual harassment and rape. The smaller the general ration, the greater the number of refugees looking for jobs and the greater the number of security incidents. Based on this experience, an additional objective of emergency assistance would then appear to be the provision of an adequate ration to maintain harmony between the two communities and prevent undesirable activities and events occurring.

WFP then set about identifying specific indicators which could also reflect on the performance of an emergency programme in terms of the welfare of the refugees or Internally Displaced Population (IDP) and local population. The following were identified.

Another set of indicators that emerged from this case study were related to whether the population was being adequately targeted with regard to food aid. The efficiency of the general food distribution system needs to be monitored not only in terms of the quantity of food being provided but also in terms of whether people are getting the right amounts and whether some people are being left out altogether. Food basket monitoring is now increasingly being used for this purpose. Additional indicators that reflect food distribution equity might also be useful, for example, The Goma case study also showed how monitoring certain types of nutritional (impact) indicator could demonstrate the differential impact of ration reductions. For example, the percentage of low birth weight children had increased quite dramatically in July and August 1996 with malnutrition among pregnant women (measured through MUAC below 22 cm) also on the rise. This may have reflected the fact that women were least able to withstand the decrease in rations in the Goma camps.

A similar exercise on identification of performance indicators is being undertaken for the repatriation operation of the Tuareg refugees in Mali. The Liberia region and Iraq will be the locations for the next case studies to be carried out during 1997.

For further information contact Christine Van Nieuwenhuyse at WFP, Via C. Colombo 426, 00145 Rome, Italy.

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Improving the quality of WFP Emergency Operations. Field Exchange 1, May 1997. p10. www.ennonline.net/fex/1/improving