On 3 and 4 October 2016, a category 4 hurricane, known as Matthew, struck the Grand’Anse and Sud Departments in southwestern Haiti affecting an estimated 2.1 million people. As the first major disaster since the May 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) held in Istanbul, the international response took place in a particular context: would the response live up to the WHS commitments, especially those laid down in the “Grand Bargain” agreement between major donor governments and agencies? Would there be a noticeable difference in the way donors and agencies set their priorities and framed their strategies and operations because of the 51 Grand Bargain commitments?
Knowing that it takes time for humanitarian reform initiatives to be fully translated into practice on the ground, a small group of donor governments, together with a number of agencies that formed a steering group, took the initiative to commission an independent real-time evaluation (RTE) of the international response to hurricane Matthew using the Grand Bargain as an analytical framework.
The RTE was carried out by two independent experts, who visited Haiti in weeks 6 and 7 of the response, i.e. between 13 and 29 November 2016. The Terms of Reference instructed the RTE to look at:
• Whether the international response, as guided by the Flash Appeal and supported by international humanitarian agencies, is proving to be effective, efficient, relevant, and timely.
• How the planning and delivery of the response reflect the commitments listed in the Grand Bargain.
In focusing on these issues, the RTE report presents 9 findings covering
the mobilisation of international actors;
data management and needs assessments;
logistics and related challenges;
the main technical and sectoral areas;
donor responses and financial resources;
coordination and leadership;
accountability to affected populations.
While providing detailed evidence on these areas, the evaluation’s main overall finding is that there has been significant improvement in the international response to the humanitarian consequences of hurricane Matthew compared to earlier disasters in Haiti, even though the improvement has been uneven. Among donors and operational humanitarian agencies, there have been major differences in terms of how they understood the scale and complexity of this disaster. They have responded at different speeds, with different levels of investment from headquarters, and have done well in some sectors, but far less well in others. The efforts made in disaster preparedness and resilience building since the 2010 earthquake have largely paid off, with prepositioned stocks and trained staff facilitating a rapid start to the response, even before communication with the affected area was re-established. National leadership and coordination under the Haitian Civil Protection Agency was rapidly in place, albeit constrained by the absence of a national disaster law. Despite a strong UNDAC presence during the initial phase, it took some time for effective systemwide coordination to be put in place.
Finally, OCHA stepped up its role and capacity. At the time of the RTE, there was still no consolidated picture of where the most urgent needs were, or of who had received assistance.
The unevenness of the response has several drawbacks, but the RTE report notes one in particular. With a sectoral approach and some sectors performing better than others, affected communities have received some services, especially in the area of WASH, for example. But as people have urgent food and shelter needs, an integrated, holistic approach that combines several services should be put in place as a matter of priority.
Inter-sector, area-based coordination should drive the response, instead of the specific outcomes of individual sectors that largely operate as silos. As the Grand Bargain is the central reference in this RTE, it is important to summarise the RTE’s conclusions in relation to the relevant commitments: