Revised evaluation report for the Strengthening Emergency Response capability (SERA) project in Ethiopia

Report
from US Agency for International Development
Published on 12 Nov 2001
Abstract
Ethiopia has experienced recurring drought, famine and other disasters such as epidemics, and massive population displacement. Over time, the problem of chronic vulnerability of the population has increased, as has dependence on food aid to deal with relief needs for large numbers of people facing severe food insecurity. Since the mid- 1990's, the Govt. of Ethiopia has made a policy decision to invest development resources in disaster prevention and preparedness.

Project Scope and Objectives

In support of this effort in 1996, USAID signed a Limited Scope Grant Agreement with DPPC to strengthen the early warning system and enhance its efforts to better detect food shortages. In 1997, a Project Grant Agreement between the Government of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia through DPPC and the United States of America was signed for the Strengthening Emergency Response Abilities Project (SERA), with the primary objective of developing vulnerability profiles so that effective planning and implementation of food security strategies could address the root causes of disaster vulnerability.

Under the SERA project, an agreement was made for the four-year project with a budget of $3,700,000. The duration of the project was intended to be - from September 1997 - September 2001. There were three main elements of the SERA project - as laid out in the original project document of 1997. These were to: a) support the DPPC's efforts to prepare vulnerability profiles in chronically vulnerable areas of the country; b) the development of response packages; c) conduct vulnerability studies/research (i.e. analysis of the root causes of vulnerability); and d) USAID Management Support.

Past and other ongoing efforts on vulnerability in Ethiopia have tended to focus mainly on early warning and effectively reaching vulnerable population groups in emergencies. In contrast the focus of SERA was on disaster mitigation, and on effectively linking disaster relief with reducing chronic vulnerability through more effective disaster response and development.

Implementation

For implementing the project, DPPC engaged in a series of visits and consultations with Regions. In light of the decentralization initiatives ongoing in Ethiopia, and their relevance for building disaster mitigation, these consultations were instrumental in preparing the Revised Project Document by Federal DPPC in November 1998.

This project represents the challenges of carrying out an innovative capacity building effort aimed at bridging the disaster relief and development divide. The effort was housed in DPPC - an organization known for its work in disaster response around the country. An ambitious effort was launched with the SERA project that was aimed at providing:

1) An integrated, multi-sector approach using existing data and generate new information to develop useful Vulnerability Profiles and research on root causes of disaster vulnerability;

2) Generate a bottom up, participatory and decentralized effort that is run mainly by the Regions;

3) Capacity building through involvement of existing manpower in participating institutions.

Scope of this Evaluation

The Objectives of this technical evaluation were to:

1. Review and assess the progress of the project against targets and objectives set forth in the project agreement.

2. Assess problems faced in achieving results and make recommendations on how to improve project performance and implementation strategies in the future.

3. Based on the evaluation, make recommendations for completion of the original objectives, as well as critical follow-on activities in-line with deliverables as set out in the 1997 project agreement, over the period October 1, 2001 through September 30, 2003.

The evaluation team reviewed project documents and met with project staff and stakeholders at Federal, Regional, Zonal and Wereda levels in each of the four regions in which the project is being carried out. This was done during a 3-week period in August 2001. An assessment of progress made and results was made from the perspectives of both efficiency with which the work was conducted, and the effectiveness of its outputs. Based on the objectives, the evaluation report considers in detail the following key outputs - institutionalization of SERA, capacity building, vulnerability profile development, research on root causes of disaster vulnerbility and development of response packages.

Key Results and Observations

This is a complex project in many ways. First, it has aimed at creating capacity to transition the formerly relief oriented DPPC towards disaster mitigation, and therefore to bridge the disaster-development divide. Second it undertook an ambitious and comprehensive data collection task at the wereda level - in many cases where little of no information was formerly available. Third, the concept of disaster risk and vulnerability is a complex, multifaceted one, and the project aimed to get a broad based consensus on the meaning and approaches to analysing it. And fourthly, project began with a well intentioned attempt to decentralize to regions the main task - the development of VPs - something that was not envisaged in the original project document.

There are a number of factors that have contributed to the low observed level of output to date, as compared with what had been anticipated or planned at the outset. These include a combination of management and technical issues that have been discussed in the sections relating to the five main outputs - Institutionalization of disaster mitigation work in DPPC structure, Vulnerability Profiles development, capacity building, indepth research, and Response Packages.

The SERA VP development component has been confronted with start-up difficulties and delays that have had an impact on the timely achievement of results. In general, the activities planned by SERA for this component are progressing, but are significantly behind schedule. Given the methodological difficulties encountered in making aggregation and comparisons among the collected data and completing vulnerability analysis or research on root causes of vulnerability, it is uncertain if concrete results leading to recommendations and response packages can be completed by September 2001. As explained above, it is the opinion of the Evaluation Team that without having a clear analytical link with the goals and conceptual basis the VP process has been stymied.

Expected results on Vulnerability Profiles, Research on Root Causes of Vulnerability, and Response Packages have not been achieved. The overall perception over time of the importance of bridging emergency response and development by developing effective disaster mitigation effort has grown over time, creating a greater demand for SERA results for mainstream planning and food security efforts. Lack of visible results has generated some impatience with its progress. This is understandable, given the urgency and need to respond to the chronic and acute vulnerability faced by large populations.

Recommendations

Recommendations for the next phase of this work for the period of October 2001 to September 2003 are based on the continuing rationale for, and much greater explicit recognition for disaster mitigation in Ethiopia, including in the present USAID-Ethiopia's Strategic Objective. A high level of urgency should be given to producing quality outputs, especially the Vulnerability Profiles. Other elements such -- as the root causes research and response packages have floundered and also need to be reoriented somewhat so that progress on these important objectives can be made. Suggestions are also made for institutional integration, strengthening and capacity building in light of other related initiatives that are gaining momentum - such as the regional strategies for food security.

1. INTRODUCTION

Ethiopia has experienced recurring drought, famine and other disasters such as epidemics, and massive population displacement. Over time, the problem of chronic vulnerability of the population has increased, as has dependence on food aid to deal with relief needs for large numbers of people facing severe food insecurity.

Since the mid-1990's, the Govt. of Ethiopia has made a policy decision to invest development resources in disaster prevention and preparedness. In 1995, the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission was converted into the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC). One of the primary functions of the new DPPC was - "to formulate strategies for future disaster prevention, undertake studies on causes of disasters, and set up systems for advance warning". Even more significantly, the country's National Policy on Disaster Prevention and Management (NPDPM), launched in October 1993 aims to strengthen development efforts in disaster prone areas by ensuring that "disaster prevention programmes shall be given due emphasis in all spheres of development endeavours". The SERA project - to be supported by USAID and the Govt. of Ethiopia, and implemented by DPPC - was an outcome of this new policy emphasis.

The NPDPM and other policies and programs, which aimed at promoting food security and tackling disaster, require accurate and timely information on the incidence prevalence, nature and causes of disaster if they have to be effective. Such information is critically important for both national and regional or local decision-makers to formulate and implement effective plans and programs and to target beneficiaries, in a way they can address the root causes of vulnerability, and enhance the food security strategy.

In order to discharge its new responsibility of disaster prevention and preparedness, Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) made an appeal to donors for capacity building in 1996. In addition to this, a National Workshop on "Vulnerability in Ethiopia: From Disaster to Development" was held from June 23 - 25, 1997. This was intended to help strengthen and enhance DPPC efforts in identifying contributors to disaster vulnerability, to better protect the population from food insecurities, and to channel emergency food aid and other assistance towards building resiliency and disaster mitigation.

In support of this effort in 1996, USAID signed a Limited Scope Grant Agreement with DPPC, with two purposes in mind. One was to strengthen the early warning system and enhance its efforts to better detect food shortages and the second reason was to develop vulnerability profiles so that effective planning and implementation of food security strategies could address the root causes of vulnerability. Following the Ghion Workshop, a Project Grant Agreement between the Government of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia through DPPC and the United States of America was signed for Strengthening emergency Response Abilities Project (SERA) on September 1997. This support was part of USAID's Special Program Objective to Enhance Food Security in target areas of Ethiopia (FY 1996-2001). Since then, the emphasis on strengthening the relief to development continuum has grown both within Govt. of Ethiopia, and for USAID, and disaster mitigation is now an integral part of the present USAID Integrated Strategic Plan for Ethiopia (FY 2001-2006).

Under the SERA project, an agreement was made for the four-year project with a budget of $3,700,000. The duration of the project was intended to be - from September 1997 - September 2001. There were three main elements of the SERA project - as laid out in the original project document of 1997.

1) Support the DPPC's efforts to prepare vulnerability profiles in chronically vulnerable areas of the country and the development of response packages; Developing a Vulnerability Profile (VP) for each of (up to) 16 zones. This activity will involve the preparation of vulnerability guidelines, mapping patterns of vulnerability, analysis of root causes and variables of vulnerability, and aggregation and dissemination of information collected. After VPs are completed, Response Packages (RP) will be developed - these are regional and zonal level contingency plans that detail appropriate interventions for particular disasters, populations and localities.

2) Conduct vulnerability studies/research (i.e. analysis of the root causes of vulnerability); Special studies, pilots and research to identify more effective ways of using food resources to target vulnerable populations and reduce the use of severe coping mechanisms - with the expectation that relief efforts are linked to development. A number of key issues for this research were identified for possible work to better understand the root causes of vulnerability -

- Root causes of ecological degradation;

- indicators of vulnerability, epidemics and coping strategies;

- population pressure, carrying capacity of land and off-farm employment;

- analysis of drought forecasting capability; and

- targeting vulnerable populations.

An objective of special studies would be to improve the ability of Title II food aid programming to enhance food security in vulnerable areas.

3) USAID Management Support: to be administered by USAID to achieve results in its Special Program Objective.

1. PROJECT RATIONALE, GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

1.1 Development of the Project Idea

The foundation for the SERA Project was laid at a workshop on "Vulnerability in Ethiopia: From Disaster to Development" which was held at Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa in June 23 - 25, 1997 (DPPC/PPPD, 1997). At the workshop the participants made recommendations related to Vulnerability profiles, In-depth research agendas and disaster response systems. One of the main recommendations was the need for development of vulnerability profiles that could identify the areas and population groups that are vulnerable to particular hazards/risks, and the reasons for such vulnerability. It was noted that previous efforts had been made with regard to vulnerability assessment in Ethiopia, including some vulnerability profiles of the drought prone areas and the establishment of the Early Warning System, which was accompanied by a variety of assessments and disaster monitoring. The previous vulnerability assessments and profiles included1:

i) Vulnerability Profiles prepared in the 1980s in Wello (Hareide, 1988) and Hararghe (Humphreys, 1989);

ii) The Profile of 5 Awrajas in Tigray, Amhara and SNNPR regions (Shawel-Consult International, 1993);

iii) The EWS North Wello Survey (DPPC/EWS 1997).

Vulnerability assessments have also regularly been made by WFP's VAM and FEWS early warning system. In addition, NGOs in collaboration with DPPC, had also undertaken vulnerability assessments. These included, among others, the extensive SCF/UK Food Economy Study (Holt and Lawrence, 1993; Boudreau, 1998) and Nutritional Surveillance efforts (1993-1998), the CARE Food Information System (CARE, 1993), the CRS Growth Surveillance System (GSS), and the six USAID/NGO partners' Food Security and Nutritional Baseline Survey (CRS, 1997).

This information had been used to supplement the country's Early Warning System (EWS) which was started in 1961. This EWS effort focused mainly on the assessment of the relevant disaster signals in different parts of the country particularly on transitory food insecurity, and was primarily geared to locating where additional food aid should be targeted. The main assessments have included the pre-harvest and post harvest assessments in the crop dependent areas, pastoral areas assessment and climate/disaster monitoring. However, the existing information, which is generated by EWS and from small-scale studies, is inadequate for identifying specific characteristics of at-risk populations, causes of vulnerability, or needs, options and opportunities for undertaking prevention measures. Because of these limitations, DPPC and Regional Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Bureaus lacked sufficient information on vulnerability to famine and other disasters to plan prevention and mitigation efforts, and to assist other sectors in addressing these needs.

In summary, the previous studies and profiles were found to be limited in their scope to address the interrelated vulnerability factors. Moreover, they tended to focus more on transitory food insecurity, without addressing the processes of vulnerability. This was therefore, the justification for the SERA project. It was hoped that the development of the vulnerability profiles of the drought prone areas and an in-depth research on vulnerability to disasters in general, would help to understand the root causes of various disasters, to devise response packages and to target vulnerable groups/areas for disaster prevention and preparedness.

Footnote

1 These reports are included in the Annotated Bibliography on Vulnerability Assessment produced for the Ghion Workshop of 1997.

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