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The evaluation of humanitarian aid in Haiti in terms of resilience: first methodological lessons.
Caroline BROUDIC, june 2012

Haiti State University and Tulane University (USA) have developed a methodology for evaluating humanitarian aid using seven resilience criteria. The aim is to evaluate the resilience of households and to measure what effect humanitarian aid has had on this. The longer term objective is to develop more in-depth methodological tools and to integrate these more systematically into the evaluations carried out throughout the country.

  Table of contents  

The report, “Haiti Humanitarian Assistance Report From a Resilience Perspective”, presents the results of research carried out by the Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy (DRLA) of Tulane University (USA) in partnership with Haiti State University (UEH). The approach used for the evaluation was based on the principle that “effective humanitarian assistance should include two objectives: preventing excess mortality and human suffering in the immediate, and in the longer term, improving the community’s ability to respond to potential future shocks”. It involved identifying and analyzing resilience criteria and measuring the effects of humanitarian aid on people’s final resilience.

 The principle results of the evaluation

Resilience is a relatively recent concept in humanitarian action, but it has become commonplace in Haiti, particularly since the earthquake of 12 January. This concept is currently used by different disciplines, such as Psychology, Economics, Environmental studies and Health, so it is important to clarify exactly what it means. The definition of resilience used in this study is as follows: “Resilience is the capacity of the affected community to self-organise, learn from and vigorously recover from adverse situations stronger than it was before”. The DRLA/UEH team retained 7 resilience criteria for households: 1) Wealth, 2) Debt and Credit, 3) Coping Behaviors, 4) Human Capital, 5) Community Networks, 6) Protection and Security, and 7) Psychosocial. The study was conducted with three social strata thus allowing comparisons to be made between households in camps, households not in camps in areas affected by the earthquake and households living outside the affected areas. With regard to the areas directly affected by the earthquake, the scores obtained for these different criteria are lower for the households living in the camps than for those living outside camps, except regarding community networks and human capital. It seems that displaced people living in camps were able to structure themselves around community networks (associations/organizations). The results perhaps reflect a perception rather than a reality. Indeed, being displaced to an environment where there is increased exposure to all forms of insecurity (physical, health, food, etc.) means that new forms of social ties need to be developed. It thus appears that households living in camps were more aware of the existence of these community networks, probably because they were able to take advantage of them directly and immediately. What is more, bodies such as committees and associations were rapidly set up in the camps to channel humanitarian aid.

The criteria where the gap between households living in camps and those outside camps was largest was that of psychosocial health. The stress related to living conditions in camps appear to show that “the effects of the earthquake on the Haitian psyche are not limited to the trauma of the event itself – the psychosocial emergency continues, and may even be worsening, particularly among camp residents”. It is important to take this result into account in the current context where the implicit message is to no longer distinguish between the camps and neighbourhoods.

The study then explores the perception that the people interviewed have of humanitarian aid, and how this affects the different criteria of resilience. The proposed conclusion is that “though initial assistance met survival needs, the continued efforts were not as effective at meeting needs for resilient recovery”. The main criticism which is put forward by the report is that humanitarian aid did not allow household resilience to be strengthened as mid- and long-term needs were not taken into account. As a result, the report recommends that long-term effects should be sought from the emergency relief phase: “[ ] humanitarian assistance must go beyond life-saving and life-sustaining activities to address the root causes of vulnerability: chronic poverty, social inequality and environmental degradation, etc.”.

The study also makes methodological recommendations for resilience criteria to be integrated into a continuous evaluation process: “[ ] more research is needed to better understand and quantify the impacts that community networks have on resilience and their relation to other dimensions of resilience. Community level metrics must be refined and made operational. Finally, a smaller set of monitoring indicators, based upon the Haiti Resilience Framework, should be adopted and routinely assessed over time”.

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