Strengthening Emergency Needs Assessment Capacities (SENAC), phase II, through thematic support to World Food Programme (WFP)


Location of operation: Global

Amount of Decision: EUR 3,500,000

Decision reference number: ECHO/THM/BUD/2006/05000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population.

1.1. - Rationale:

The principle of a needs based approach in humanitarian aid requires the ability to assess the needs correctly in order to design the best response aiming at meeting needs in a timely manner without adverse effects, such as exclusion errors in targeting of beneficiaries, inappropriate and insufficient responses or responses that are inconsistent with the "do no harm" principle.

The humanitarian agencies do not always possess sufficient information about problems occurring in a crisis, including how the people affected by emergencies perceive them and what their coping and survival capacities are. This lack of information and knowledge may lead to responses which may not be the most appropriate or even appropriate at all. As for food aid interventions there are many examples of interventions that have led to adverse effects, like targeting errors, not matching local nutritional habits, and hampering disincentives for local production and development of markets.

As for food aid the donor-community had continuously raised 3 concerns to implementing partners such as the World Food Programme (WFP):

1) the quality of food aid needs assessments and the information they are based on;

2) the quantity, type, timing and duration of food aid provided in some emergency situations;

3) the impact of food aid activities.

As a response to the concerns, the WFP's Executive Board adopted in February 2004 a policy that emphasized the importance of needs assessments (WFP/EB.1/2004/4-A) and subsequently adopted a 30-month implementation plan for strengthening the quality, credibility and transparency of emergency needs assessments. The implementation plan (WFP/EB.3/2004/4-E) outlined the objectives, activities, partnerships and funding requirements relating to the main areas identified for improvement: (i) accountability and transparency; (ii) strengthened methods and guidance; (iii) crisis information for priority countries; and (iv) assessment capacities.

Taking into account the level of food aid interventions by the European Commission (EC) around EUR 200 million per year (of which around EUR 40 million are funded by DG ECHO)(1) primarily channelled through the World Food Programme, DG ECHO initiated thematic funding in October 2004 to the project "Strengthening Emergency Needs Assessment Capacity" (SENAC) in WFP.

The components in the SENAC project are fully complying with the priorities set in the WFP 30 months plan. The results from the phase I funding (first 12 months of the SENAC) have materialised, but the knowledge gained now needs to be operationalised, fine-tuned implemented and disseminated. This will be done throughout phase II and phase III. The funding of phase II is to secure that the process of improving the needs assessment capacity and methodology remains on track and that the end result is credible needs assessments.

The rationale behind the project from the EC's perspective is first and foremost to secure that needs are met appropriately, but also to maximise the value of the funds utilised for food aid in the sense that improved targeting e.g. leading to less inclusion errors would result in meeting the needs of more people with the same funds.

This decision proposes to provide funding for phase II of SENAC, which is the major part of WFP's 30 months plan to strengthen emergency needs assessment. The phase II will follow up on and consolidate the findings from the first phase, initiate work on 3 new thematic areas that can be integrated into to Emergency Food Security Assessment Handbook (EFSA)(2) and support training of regular WFP staff, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), governmental staff and other UN agencies on the newly developed tools.


(1) Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid - ECHO

(2) Compilation of tools and guidelines for assessments