European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Service tools

Needs assessment

Needs assessment
© European Union / ECHO / Mathias Eick
What is it?

In accordance with the humanitarian principles, the European Union seeks to address the needs of the most vulnerable people facing humanitarian crises and disasters. Assessing needs refers to obtaining and analysing information about the needs of people suffering from crises. Assessment provides evidence to decide if external intervention is required and contributes to the design and implementation of an adequate humanitarian response.

Why is this important?

Humanitarian needs have increased massively over the past few years, and humanitarian funds have struggled to keep up. This has resulted in a growing gap between needs and response. States, humanitarian organisations and other stakeholders have made an effort to bridge this gap by committing to work more efficiently and effectively together through initiatives such as the Grand Bargain.

Many countries are prone to recurrent crises because of weather patterns or unstable internal situations. Gathering information and monitoring risks help decision-making and consequently ensures that humanitarian assistance is delivered in a timely and targeted manner. Assessment and monitoring contribute enable humanitarian organisations to be better prepared and able to proactively intervene when enhanced risks of crises are identified.

Finally, some crises receive limited attention from media and the international donor community. Nevertheless, people affected by such “forgotten crises” are often among the most vulnerable and cannot be neglected.

How are we helping?

The European Union delivers its humanitarian aid on the basis of the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence as set out in the Lisbon Treaty and confirmed in the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid. However, resources are scarce in the face of current and future crises and allocation choices need to be based on evidence.

The European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) has developed a two-phase framework to assess and analyse needs across countries and crises. This framework provides the evidence to prioritise needs, allocate funding, and develop the humanitarian implementations plans (HIPs).

The first phase is a global evaluation with two dimensions:

  • The Index for Risk Management (INFORM) is a tool based on national indicators and data which allows for a comparative analysis of countries to identify their level of risk of humanitarian crises and disasters. It includes three dimensions of risk: exposure to natural and man-made hazards, population vulnerability, and national coping capacity. The INFORM data is also used to calculate a Crisis Index that identifies countries suffering from a natural disaster, conflict, hosting a large number of displaced people, or a combination of the three.
  • The Forgotten Crisis Assessment (FCA) identifies serious humanitarian crisis situations where the affected populations do not receive enough international aid, or no aid at all. These crises are characterised by low media coverage, a lack of donor interest (as measured through aid per capita) and a weak political commitment to solve the crisis, resulting in an insufficient presence of humanitarian organisations.

The second phase of the framework focuses on context and response analysis.

  • The Integrated Analysis Framework (IAF) is an in-depth assessment carried out by European Commission humanitarian experts. It consists of a qualitative assessment of humanitarian needs per single crisis, also taking into account affected populations and foreseeable trends.

The European Commission is also committed to improve the capacity, quality, and coordination of needs-assessment approaches across the humanitarian sector. It is a co-convener of the Grand Bargain Needs Assessment Work Stream, together with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Additionally, the European Commission:

  • supports the work of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) related to assessment and analysis tools and guidance (such as the rollout of the Humanitarian Programme Cycle);
  • funds global needs-assessment initiatives with partner organisations through the Enhanced Response Capacity (ERC) budget;
  • promotes efforts aimed at improving coordinated needs-assessment methodologies and processes in humanitarian assistance, including through donor platforms, such as the Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) initiative;
  • supports the global INFORM initiative, as well as national and regional assessments of the risk of humanitarian crises and disasters that are based on the INFORM methodology and process.
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