Technical consultation on Emergency Needs Assessment
Summary of proceedings of meeting1
Jeremy Shoham facilitates the workshop in Rome
The World Food Programme (WFP) initiated and organised a technical consultation on emergency needs assessments (ENA) in Rome between 12- 14th of March 2003. The meeting was funded by UK-DFID2 in the context of its 'strategic partnership' with WFP. The technical consultation was principally facilitated by an ENN member of staff. The meeting was unique in that it brought together a large number of donor agencies (users of ENA) and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) that conduct assessments (producers). The goal of the meeting was to strengthen partnerships in preparing sound, credible and comparable emergency needs assessments (ENAs) and ensure relevance to food aid decision-making.
More specifically, the meeting aimed to:
- Strengthen the ENA process by increasing the understanding of how and why ENAs are implemented and the needs of information users.
- Identify and define capacities, competencies and challenges
- Strengthen linkages between ENA and other stages of the project information cycle: baseline data collection, early warning, monitoring and evaluation
- Explore scope for more partnerships and complementarity in conducting ENAs.
The focus was on food crises arising from natural disasters, conflict/displacement (complex emergency) and market-induced emergency. In fact, discussion was largely dominated by considerations relating to major slow-onset food crises, with particular focus on the current situation and operation in Southern Africa.
Weaknesses seen by donors in assessment and related agency proposals, included inadequate details on affected people and needs at subnational levels, not enough specifics on methods, sources and actual need (submissions are mainly descriptive), recommendations not always linked to analysis, and objectives not specific enough (no clear overall intervention strategy).
The following general points emerged from the short presentations made by the representatives of UK-DFID, USAID3, EuropeAid and the Netherlands:
- There are inevitable difficulties when different agencies provide different figures for numbers of people and/or food requirements for the same areas, and it is difficult to compare 'needs' and establish priorities between countries.
- There is widespread concern among donors that food aid needs are sometimes overestimated, while the potential for other nonfood aid interventions is not adequately examined - assessments focus too narrowly on food aid, and the currently assessed needs for food aid are 'overwhelming'.
- Donors' confidence in assessment findings and associated recommendations depends largely on the reputation of the agency (or individual), the demonstrated use of a recognised methodology and, to a lesser extent, evidence of community involvement.
Working groups discussed a number of topics including:
- comparability and minimum data sets
- regional approaches and the roles of governments and regional bodies
- lives/livelihoods and distinguishing between acute and chronic needs
- markets and the roles of the private and public sector
- principles and competencies for ENA.
The main recommendations to come out of the meeting were as follows: Market and macro-economic aspects need more attention, but the methodologies and capacities for more in-depth investigation of these areas are lacking within the humanitarian aid community. Other organisations with relevant expertise (e.g. IFPRI4, World Bank) need to be involved.
There can be no standard methodology for all ENAs in all situations, but standards for ENAs need to be established and, if possible, criteria for choosing appropriate methodologies in different types of situation.
Whenever possible, the government and humanitarian agencies (UN and NGO) should agree on a methodology appropriate to the local situation and then work together on joint or complementary/coordinated assessments, using the agreed methodology, covering all potentially needy population groups. In situations of conflict and contested governance, agencies should assure coordinated assessments independent of the national and other local authorities.
National capacities should be developed, and regional coordination be encouraged.
On how to move forward..
Technical workshops should be organised as soon as possible to:
- develop the minimum information set for assessments/requests
- review possibilities for a minimum set of baseline information for disaster-prone areas and populations
- review outstanding technical issues and seek agreement on general principles in relation to sampling, distinguishing transitory and chronic food insecurity, assessing market aspects, and other issues that may be identified
- document good practice in assessment and analysis in different contexts, including the skills and other resources required
- examine options for non-food aid responses to food insecurity, and how to adapt assessment and analysis procedures to identify such options
Arrangements should be established for preassessment consultations among agencies and donors. (This could be extended to include more general assessment-related consultations among WFP, FAO and donors).
The process proposed by FAO and WFP to include donors and other institutions in reviewing and enhancing the CFSAM process should be supported.
E-forum(s) - email or Web based - should be established to continue the dialogue in relation to food-related emergency needs assessments and to facilitate follow up on specific technical and process issues.
Consideration should also be given to organising an evaluation of food security assessment approaches/methodologies - the similarities, differences, comparative strengths in different contexts, costs and the effectiveness of actions taken based on their recommendations, and the piloting by WFP and NGOs of market interventions and cash-based alternatives to food aid.
For further information, contact Marie France Bourgeois, WFP on email: MarieFrance.Bourgeois@wfp.org
1Based on draft proceedings. See contacts for more information.
2Department for International Development
3United States Agency for International Development
4International Food Policy Research Institute
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Reference this page
Technical consultation on Emergency Needs Assessment. Field Exchange 19, July 2003. p26. www.ennonline.net/fex/19/technical