Menu ENN Search

Sphere standards in Bangladesh flood response

Summary of research1

Women and Children Nutrition Centre, Khulna

During 1998, Bangladesh experienced floods that were unprecedented in their scope, duration and the damage they caused. Although seasonal flooding is quite normal in Bangladesh, the unusual combination of excessive run-off from Himalayan snowmelts, heavy rainfall and particularly high tides in the Bay of Bengal conspired to cause abnormally severe flooding. Between late August and the end of September 1998, approximately 100,000 square kilometres (68% of the country) was flooded, with flood conditions lasting an average of 65 days.

Over thirty million people were affected by this disaster, and more than one million people were displaced to government shelters. In response, 163 local, national and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) distributed relief items, including food aid, water purification tablets, clothing and medicines, to 2.4 million Bangladeshi families. A recently published study set out to evaluate whether the nutritional interventions during this response met Sphere minimum standards for emergencies.

A sample of fifteen agencies were analysed (two bilateral organisations, one United Nations (UN) body, one government agency, eight international NGOs and three local NGOs). Two questionnaires were administered to each agency. One was qualitative and focused on intervention criteria, rapid needs assessment, acute-phase interventions, transitions and rehabilitative phase interventions, monitoring and evaluation, disaster preparedness activities and donor response. The second was quantitative, and attempted to obtain information on number of beneficiaries, total nutritional and food expenditure, cash grant expenditure, rehabilitation expenditure, disaster preparedness funding, staffing and total disaster response expenditure. The performance of each organisation was evaluated against the 'Minimum Standards in Food Aid and Minimum standards in Nutrition', selected from the 1998 edition of the Sphere manual.

Of those agencies assessed, 83% targeted the most vulnerable groups and three-quarters (75%) of agencies performed some form of ongoing monitoring and evaluation. Methods for identifying vulnerable people varied from the simple to the sophisticated, depending on the agency involved. Half of the agencies assessed nutritional status before providing assistance. However, fewer than half - 42% in each case - collected beneficiary feedback on the intervention, monitored local markets for how the importation of new food sources affected local prices or businesses, or sought local participation in their relief efforts. One-third of agencies had an existing disaster preparedness plan. Only one agency had made an assessment of the impact of their response, despite the fact that many had participated in a 'lessons learned' workshop. It should be noted that conditions identified as pre-requisites by the Sphere project for application of the minimum standards were present in the Bangladeshi context, i.e. sufficient resources, access to affected populations and common goals amongst agencies.

One of the main findings of the study was that lower capacity agencies were less able to meet the Sphere standards, presumably because they lacked appropriately skilled personnel, technical capabilities, operational experience and access to resources. Only the best funded were able to meet the majority of standards assessed. The authors of the study suggest that Sphere, as a potential co-ordinating framework, may be able to help address this issue by enabling agencies to share core competencies. A prerequisite for this approach is interagency planning and donor funding for the co-ordinating mechanism, as well as incentives for agencies to participate. One danger identified by the study authors was that, by insisting on minimum standards, smaller, less funded and lower capacity agencies might be discouraged from participating in disaster response.

Particular challenges facing Sphere implementation, the paper concluded, are those which require ongoing commitment of energy and resources. These include building avenues for local participation, disaster preparedness and mitigation, and developing tools for co-ordination of response and impact assessment. However despite these challenges, the authors argue that Sphere has further value in articulating a breadth and depth of technical standards in a way that is relevant and useful to an extraordinary variety of humanitarian disaster situations, and for a great diversity of agencies, organisations and individuals. By linking them to the humanitarian imperative, Sphere universalises these standards and focuses disaster response on the human dignity of affected populations.

Show footnotes

1O'Donnell M.R, Bacos D, Bennish M.L (2002). Nutritional response to the 1998 Bangladesh flood disaster: Sphere Minimum Standards in Disaster Response. Disasters, Vol 26 (3), pp 229-241

More like this

FEX: The application of minimum standards during crisis - A practitioner ’s perspective, southern Sudan 1998/9

By Stephanie Maxwell Stephanie Maxwell worked as the medical co-ordinator for Medicines Sans Frontiers Holland (MSFH) between May '97 and March '99, and as programme manager...

FEX: Oxfam evaluation of Cyclone Sidr response

Summary of evaluation1 A boy stands next to his makeshift home in Patarghata (Barguna District). Late in the evening of 15th November 2007, Cyclone Sidr struck Bangladesh's...

FEX: Kosovo Evaluation

During 1998 and early 1999 the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbian) forces increased their efforts to 'ethnically cleanse' Kosovo. They justified this on the basis that...

FEX: Co-ordinating a Humanitarian Response in Sudan

A man unloading a sack of 'Super Unimix' - a protein-rich nutritional supplement - supplied by UNICEF, from a World Food Programme plane. Paul Murphy, Regional Policy Adviser,...

FEX: 2011 Edition of the Sphere Handbook Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

Farmers association level consultation at Chuko, Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNPR) province, Ethiopia, August 2009 By Susan Thurstans, Paul Turnbull, Devrig...

FEX: A Review of the advances and challenges in nutrition in conflicts and crises over the last 20 years

Abbreviated version of unpublished paper Food distribution at the ICRC kitchen in Tonj. By Frances Mason and Anna Taylor This paper is a shortened version of the complete...

FEX: Partnership and Disaster Response (and Post Script)

Teenage girl distributing seeds at a village meeting in Kurigram By Tracy McGhee, Press officer SCF(UK). In August last year, as news reports began to show that Bangladesh...

FEX: Inter-Agency Standing Committee endorses Sphere

In July 1997, the Sphere Project was launched by a group of humanitarian agencies. This project sought to develop a set of universal minimum standards in core areas of...

FEX: Evaluation of international response to the tsunami

Summary of report1 Devastation in Sri Lanka post tsunami The Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killed over 227,000 people with 1.7 million displaced. A massive...

FEX: Christian Aid

Name Christian Aid Address 35 Lower Marsh London SE1 7RT, UK Year formed 1945/6 Telephone +44 (0)207 620 4444 Director Dr Daleep Mukarji Fax +44 (0)207 620 0719 HQ...

FEX: Sphere Project

Sphere Project It's great to have the opportunity, in this issue of Field Exchange, to bring to your attention an NGO endeavour aiming to improve the quality of emergency...

FEX: Can Sphere be Used in Complex Emergencies?

Summary of published paper1 A U.S Airborne Infantry soldier patrols along Kosovo's border with Macedonia The Sphere Project (consisting of both the Humanitarian Charter and...

en-net: Nutrition Consultant need-Very urgent

TERMS OF REFERENCE Turkana Health and Nutrition Project Evaluation and Impact analysis 1. Context The greater Turkana district composed of 6 districts has a total of 17...

FEX: Lessons learnt from the 1998 Bangladesh floods

This article is based on research conducted by Dr. Moazzem Hossain who was working as a Programme Manager in Health and Nutrition of Save the Children Fund UK at the time of...

FEX: Synthesis of Key points from the SCN Symposium ‘Nutrition in the context of crisis and conflict’

Statement for endorsement by the UN Secretary General on Nutrition in Conflict and Crisis - 15th March 2002 As reported in the last Field Exchange, the ACC/SCN Sub Committee...

FEX: Evaluation of the Impact of the ACF Therapeutic Feeding Programme in Burundi

ACF and ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Office) undertook a joint evaluation of the ACF therapeutic feeding programme in Burundi in November 1998. The nature of the...

FEX: Sphere Project: handbook revision (2002 – 2003)

Since the launching of the first edition of the Sphere handbook (2000), over 25,000 volumes have been sold and the handbook has been translated into 15 languages (eight...

FEX: An Ongoing Omission: Adolescent and Adult Malnutrition in Famine Situations

By Peter Salama and Steve Collins. (December '98) A boy sits under a tree awaiting a distribution by the UN World Food Programme in the southern village Acum Cum. The food is...

FEX: Bangladesh Nutrition Cluster: A case in preparedness

By Andrew Musyoki and Anuradha Narayan Andrew Musyoki is a Nutrition Specialist with UNICEF Bangladesh Anuradha Narayan is the Chief of the Nutrition Section, UNICEF...

en-net: Hiring Nutrition Cluster Coordinator

The global Nutrition cluster strategy reflects agreed priorities between the cluster partners and the cluster lead agency (CLA). The RRT member would play a key role in the...

Close

Reference this page

Sphere standards in Bangladesh flood response. Field Exchange 18, March 2003. p2. www.ennonline.net/fex/18/sphere

(ENN_2619)

Close

Download to a citation manager

The below files can be imported into your preferred reference management tool, most tools will allow you to manually import the RIS file. Endnote may required a specific filter file to be used.