Humanitarian Health Action

Purpose statements for panels and sessions

WHO Conference on the Health Aspects of the Tsunami Disaster in Asia

Panel 2.1: Assessing needs and measuring impact


The Tsunami disaster was initially a tremendous challenge for WHO to perform its core functions, specifically in the very early stages: rapid health assessment missions, involving multi-agency teams to access isolated affected communities turned out to be crucial to provide basic data on the resources required to effectively determine & address the priority health needs of the affected population. The sharing of information and the involvement of other partners & stakeholders enabled WHO to develop a strategy with identified health priorities at a very early stage of the disaster, providing donors with a clear perspective of needs to be addressed, gaps that need to be filled and a projection of the resources required. The continuous exchange of information facilitated the transition from the immediate relief operation to rehabilitation activities of a more long term nature and enabled informed decision making based on the actual needs of local communities.

The Tsunami response of WHO demonstrated the organizational capability to quickly mobilize internal & external technical & financial resources in order to fulfil its core functions to respond to crisis of such an extreme dimension:

  • Assessment & information gathering
  • Identifying gaps
  • Effective coordination with other partners
  • Building local capacity

were all covered with varying success-rates. It is a tremendous opportunity for WHO to reflect on the organizational performance, to clearly evaluate what worked well and where alternative managerial and administrative procedures need to be considered to improve the performance.

Key questions

Are there sufficiently clear performance indicators in place to evaluate and assess the impact of the WHO response and to determine the extent to which WHO was able to effectively fulfil the above.

Was the strategy adopted needs based and did it identify the right priorities and adopt appropriate measures?

How effective was WHO in collaborating with the international community in addressing immediate health needs of the people affected:

Was the initial response based on actual needs and were the initial assessments correct in identifying priority areas of interventions?

How effective was WHO in keeping other stakeholders informed on actual needs, gaps in the response that needed to be filled and coordinating the relief efforts in order to close the gaps as much as possible in a timely manner?

To what extent was WHO successful in channelling resources to support and build up local capacity and to avoid duplication and the creation of parallel structures?

What went particularly well and can be used as an example of best practice in future crisis situations?

How can the organization support a learning environment that makes sure that the lessons learnt are actually integrated in plans and strategies to guide future health & humanitarian action?

Are there specific technical areas where there is a need for updated guidelines & standards for future response operations in order to avoid shortfalls or problems in the future: i.e. in kind donations, drug donations, dead body management, etc.?

Is there a need for improved criteria to measure the impact?

Was WHO sufficiently convincing that humanitarian action was guided by a clear understanding of the disaster myths & realities articulated by WHO/PAHO?

To what extent did WHO ensure that the massive response and resource mobilization did not divert donor support from other “forgotten crisis & emergencies”?