Independent Evaluation of Expenditure of DEC India Cyclone Appeal Funds: Volume 1 and Volume 2

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
Originally published
(Note: many local NGOs in Orissa are commonly referred to by their initials only, and we have only given their full titles below where these are in English)
Block Development Office
British Red Cross Society
Catholic Fund for Overseas Development
Cash for Work
Disasters and Emergency Committee
Department for International Development
European Community Humanitarian Office
Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief
Food for Work
Gram Panchayat
Help Age International
International Federation of Red Cross Societies
Lutheran World Service
Non Governmental Organisation
Orissa Disaster Mitigation Mission
Orissa Livelihoods & Employment Restoration Programme
Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority
People's Rural Education Movement
Self Help Group
Terms of Reference
United Nations Children's Fund
World Food Programme
World Vision



In October 1999 the coast of Orissa in Eastern India was struck by two cyclones. The first, on October 17 did serious damage in one District, Ganjam, and caused about 250 deaths, but did not receive much international attention. The second, on 29 October, struck a far wider area of coastal Orissa and a tidal wave spread across many low lying areas near the sea. At least 10,000 people died and many more lost their homes, livestock, and crops. With electric power and telecommunications cut, and roads and railways blocked, the cyclone brought much of Orissa, including the State Government, to a standstill.

In response to this emergency the DEC launched an Appeal on 6 November 1999. Eleven DEC members participated. They were ActionAid, the British Red Cross Society (BRCS), CAFOD, CARE, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Help the Age/HelpAge International (HAI), Oxfam, Save the Children Fund (SC(UK)), Tearfund, and World Vision UK. Tearfund, and World Vision UK. In comparison with other recent appeals, the Cyclone Appeal was not felt to be hugely successful, but it still raised over £5 million, which is a significant amount of money in the context of India where almost all relief supplies can be procured locally at reasonable prices.

The evaluation

This is an independent evaluation of the overall impact of the £5 million spent by these 11 DEC members on relief and rehabilitation. The evaluation team started work in March and paid an initial visit to Orissa to finalise the evaluation team and meet DEC agencies and their local partners in April. There were further meetings with most DEC agencies in the UK and Ireland in June, and most of the field work was carried out in July/August. This time scale has meant that though much of the relief effort was concluded long before the evaluation team arrived, the locally recruited consultants in particular were able to observe and discuss DEC agencies' rehabilitation activities over a 4-month period (April-August).

The key findings of the evaluation are as follows:

Preparedness and initial response

The evaluation found that Government staff in many areas both made some effort to warn people of the cyclone, and to distribute relief at an early stage. However their overall response was constrained by a lack of strong political leadership in the state, a lack of contingency plans, and of alternative communication systems.

DEC members had to work out their responses in a very difficult context especially in the chaotic period immediately after the cyclone. CARE, and the Orissa State Branch of the Indian Red Cross Society, and World Vision had some emergency infrastructure, and the Red Cross had built 23 cyclone shelters, but the remaining DEC members were not prepared for a disaster of this magnitude. Even those, like Oxfam and ActionAid which had offices in Orissa were focussed on development work. The remaining DEC agencies had to rely on their local partner agencies. The nature of the disaster meant that most of the initial "search and rescue" efforts were made by Government staff and volunteers rather than by DEC members. Apart from the Red Cross, no DEC members or their local NGO partners had done any significant work to prepare communities for a disaster of this scale.


The team concludes that almost all the aid supplied by DEC agencies was appropriate to the needs. In some areas there was a surplus of plastic sheeting and blankets, but this was often due to poor information about what supplies were being sent to which areas. Much of Oxfam's relief programme, especially its use of up to 45 different NGO's to distribute relief supplies, was highly appropriate, as was its initial work in cleaning out wells and ponds in order to supply safe drinking water. The team's finding is that by the time SC(UK) relief supplies reached some areas of Ganjam five weeks after the first cyclone, many items were no longer needed as immediate relief needs in this district had already been partially met by LWS. Given the time delays it might have been more appropriate for SC(UK) to focus from the outset on rebuilding livelihoods using Food for Work and Cash for Work as it then did in the second phase of its programme.

Those agencies, like ActionAid and HAI which responded to the disaster by sending in medical teams need to review whether the actual health risks justified such interventions.


Undoubtedly if more DEC Agencies had clear disaster preparedness measures in place in Orissa, they could have made more efficient use of DEC funds. If Oxfam had invested more in both training of its local staff in how to respond to emergencies, and had had in place supporting financial and administrative systems, then they could have managed the emergency with a smaller number of expatriate staff. SC(UK) lacked operational capacity in Orissa and therefore had to bring in its initial relief supplies from Delhi at a relatively high cost.

As regarded the assessments carried out by individual DEC members, the evaluation recommends that in response to future disasters of this type the DEC should consider conducting a joint strategic assessment at the earliest possible stage.


In relation to impact the team found a wide variation between the impact of relief efforts (almost all of which were successful) as against rehabilitation, the impact of which was more problematic. The report therefore divides this core issue into two components:

Impact of relief: The team has no doubt that the combined actions by DEC member agencies helped reduce mortality, morbidity, and suffering after the cyclone. While the strongest indicator of success in the relief effort might be thought to be the low mortality rate following the end of the cyclone, the report suggests that this low mortality rate was due more to strong local coping mechanisms, rather than agency intervention.

In some cases relief was continued for too long. A general long term impact of the cyclone is that with so many agencies working in the same area, people's long term expectations about what outside agencies can provide them has been increased.

Impact of rehabilitation: The evaluation also reviews the impact of rehabilitation efforts by DEC members in relation to housing, food and Cash for Work Programmes, public health, and the social integration of widows and orphans. It finds that in general housing programmes (funded by CAFOD and the BRCS) suffered because of a lack of clear overall housing standards, shortages of materials and transport, and often low levels of beneficiary participation. CARE had to postpone its own housing programmes due to the difficulty of completing housing within the 6-month expenditure period.

As regards FFW and CFW, both Oxfam and ActionAid's interventions have helped provide people with both cash and grain at lean times of the year. Oxfam's Livelihoods Restoration Programme, which lasted 90 days, was useful in providing poor households with both cash and food during this period: by supplying such items as fishing nets and potters' wheels it also helped households restart some of the income-earning activities they had pursued before the cyclone. ActionAid's Food for Work programme in Ersama initially had a positive impact, but we are question whether it should have been continued once normal agricultural work was available from June onwards. In general rehabilitation efforts have been too fragmented , and more concerted action between the Government, UN agencies, and DEC members is still needed to restore the agricultural economy, especially in those areas which are now highly vulnerable to further intrusion of sea water.

Oxfam used DEC funds for a major Public Health Programme. While Oxfam's initial emergency intervention in this sector was needed, and helped provide safe drinking water in over 4,500 wells, the evaluation questions whether this programme's longer term objectives in relation to hygiene promotion have as yet been achieved.

The evaluation reviewed DEC members' collective impact on the capacity of local NGOs and found a mixed picture. Many local NGOs have clearly gained from the exposure they have had to a large scale relief and rehabilitation operation, but others took on relief operations which they had neither the staff, nor the financial and logistical systems, to monitor effectively.


Initially too much of the relief went to Ersama Block, and other areas, especially the less accessible ones, were neglected. Later relief did reach even the remoter areas affected. There were specific programmes designed to target the most vulnerable, for instance the shelters for widows and orphans supported by ActionAid, but otherwise whole households were targeted and in practice there was little extra provision in the allocation of relief supplies either for women-headed households or for children. In most areas it was very difficult for DEC agencies to prevent some relief supplies going to families who did not really need them, especially in Ersama where there was a general excess of relief items.

In rehabilitation DEC agencies have in general been more successful at targeting the most vulnerable, but the team concluded that ActionAid's "positive discrimination" in favour of beneficiaries from particular castes may be in breach of the DEC's code of conduct. This issue is discussed in section 4.6 below.


Clearly the relief and rehabilitation efforts of DEC members were not designed and implemented in a vacuum: in all cases, as one would expect, they reflect the agencies different development priorities. However the evaluation team would like there to be more debate both within and between DEC agencies about whether or not some of their rehabilitation programmes are not now burdened with too many development objectives. Examples include Oxfam's linking of water supply with hygiene promotion objectives, (ref. section 5.3.4) , ActionAid's policy in relation to caste (ref. section 4.6), and the tendency of local NGOs to try to set up women's Self Help Groups in areas affected by the cyclone (discussed in section 5.2.3) The priority for DEC rehabilitation funds after a natural disaster should be to restore livelihoods. Until this objective has been achieved (and as the report argues it is too soon to say that it has been) it is questionable whether rehabilitation funds should be used to achieve broader social development objectives.

As regards capacity building, the team felt that local NGOs had been put under considerable strain both by the cyclone itself and by the accountability requirements of their DEC partners. While many individuals have gained much in terms of experience and expertise it would be unrealistic, given the short timescale, to expect DEC agencies to have done much to build up the long term capacity of their local NGO partners. Some DEC agencies are themselves concerned that local NGOs and CBOs which were formed to meet locally articulated needs and priorities may now as a result of the cyclone feel more accountable to their donors than to their own communities.

At community level, DEC funds have been used to encourage a rapid expansion of the activities of some relatively new and inexperienced NGOs, and there has been an expansion of local structures like Women's SHG's. It is unclear whether many of these NGOs will really have the capacity to support these local structures in the long term.


Overall there was a serious lack of co-ordination in the post-cyclone response, especially by the State Government. DEC members and the local State Office of UNICEF set up regular meetings to exchange information about different agencies' activities, which were attended by State Government staff, and initial separate attempts were made both by the Government and NGOs to set up similar forums. Oxfam argued with the Government of India that there should be a stronger UN presence in Orissa, but they were not successful. Much later on, there were more successful attempts at co-ordination by the Government and NGOs at District and Block level. Representatives of DEC agencies did set up their own informal structures for co-ordination, which resulted in a joint advocacy initiative in relation to revising the State Disaster Code.

As regards the overall value added by the Appeal, the evaluation found that the three largest recipient agencies all experienced difficulties in spending their allocations within the 6-month expenditure period: the BRCS, SC(UK), and later Oxfam each returned money to the DEC. In contrast World Vision and CARE had the capacity to spend more DEC funds, but their allocation was a very small part of their total expenditure and did not in the end make a significant difference to their relief and rehabilitation work. However the appeal still appears valuable as a collective undertaking which encouraged co-operation between British agencies. This was especially useful since, though there was good co-operation between DEC agencies, in the total relief operation weak co-ordination tended to exacerbate a sense of competition between all the different players. Our recommendations in section 6 suggest ways in which the DEC can maximise this advantage in future appeals.

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