B. Purpose of an Initial Assessment
The overall purpose of an initial assessment is to provide OFDA/W and the USG with information, analyses, and recommendations to make timely decisions on a USG disaster response. Initial assessments:
- Identify the impact a disaster has had on a society, and the ability of that society to cope.
- Identify the most vulnerable populations (often likely to be women, children, and the elderly) that need to be targeted for assistance.
- Identify the most urgent food and nonfood requirements and potential methods of providing these in the most effective and equitable manner.
- Identify the level of response by the affected country and its internal capacities to cope with the situation, especially direct assistance to the affected population(s).
- Identify the priorities of the affected population(s) and their preferred strategies for meeting those priorities.
- Identify the level of response from other donor countries, United Nations (UN) relief organizations, private voluntary organizations (PVOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and international organizations (IOs).
- Make recommendations to OFDA/W and U.S. Embassy and/or U.S. Agency for International Development (USAlD) Mission (if present) that identify and prioritize the actions and resources needed for immediate response. Recommendations should include possibilities for facilitating and expediting recovery and development, and supporting prevention and mitigation.
- Identify which types of indepth assessments should be undertaken.
- Highlight special concerns that would not be immediately evident to OFDA/W or to individuals not trained in emergency response.
Initial assessments should also provide baseline data that can be used as a reference for further monitoring. Monitoring systems should be put in place to enable relief officials to determine whether a situation is improving or deteriorating. These systems must include ways to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of relief activities. Each assessment or survey should be designed to build on previous survey findings and expand the data base.
The Assessment Team must be sensitive to the situation of the affected country. The team needs to structure its assessment questions so that unreasonable expectations are not created. It should be clear to the affected country what the United States can/cannot and will/will not do. The Assessment Team must also be aware of the pressures applied by the affected country and others to "identify needs." A recommendation of "no additional assistance is required" may be valid if an on-the-ground site visit finds a disaster that is not as severe as indicated in third-hand reports and media coverage (focused on a few dire cases) received in Washington before the Assessment Team’s departure.
Remember that the Assessment Team is supporting the U.S. Country Team led by the Ambassador. The Country Team will have a strong desire to help. The Assessment Team must consider the Country Team’s willingness to assist, but it also must be prepared to advise it on the parameters and limitations of OFDA support.
OFDA Assessment Team findings and recommendations must be clear and concise, because they become the basis for USG decisionmaking and planning for the disaster response. Precise assessments are the foundation of OFDA’s work.