I. OFDA Assessment Cable Reporting Formats


The following cable format and content outlines should be used by OFDA Assessment Teams when sending reporting cables to OFDA/W following a disaster assessment. A longer, more detailed assessment report may be prepared by the team to address the points outlined in the cable in more depth.

1. Disaster Cable Format Considerations

  • Always use Courier New, 12-point font.
  • A cable line can not exceed 55 characters, including spaces.
  • Do not use symbols (%,", $); instead, spell out percent, quote or end quote, and USD.
  • When including editorial comments, preface and conclude these phrases with the designations note and end note or comment and end comment.
  • Look at other cables from the Mission or other disasters for formatting help. See where other Embassy cables go. Copy addresses from incoming cables.
  • Classification options:
    • Unclassified.
    • Sensitive, but Unclassified (SBU).
    • Confidential.
    • Secret.
    • Top Secret.
  • Classification marker:
    • N/A for Unclassified and SBU cables.
    • For Classified cables, date should be listed at least 10 years in the future.
  • Precedence options:
    • Routine.
    • Priority.
    • Immediate.
    • Niact Immediate.
    • Flash.
    • Critical.
  • Types of tags:
    • Axxx = Administrative (ABUD = Budget).
    • Cxxx = Consular (CPAS = Passports) (CVIS = Visas).
    • Exxx = Economic (ELAB = Labor).
    • Pxxx = Political (PTER = Terrorism).
    • Oxxx, Sxxx = Public Diplomacy.
    • Geopolitical Tags (e.g., JA, NO, WA).

2. Who Should Get the Cable

At a minimum, the reporting cable should be addressed as follows:

SECSTATE WASHDC (for DCHA/OFDA, Regional Bureau, and DCHA/FFP also for the State Desk and PRM); INFO AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS (for USEC); AMEMBASSY ROME (Rome pass FODAG); USMISSION GENEVA (for USAID and RMA); USMISSION USUN NEW YORK; AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE (for OFDA Regional Advisor if the disaster is in Latin America); AMEMBASSY BANGKOK (for OFDA Regional Advisor if in Asia); AMEMBASSY NAIROBI, AMEMBASSY DAKAR, AMEMBASSY PRETORIA (for OFDA Regional Advisor if in Africa).

Additional INFO addressees will depend on the situation but could include:

  • The neighboring country missions (e.g., if the affected country is Sudan, send also to Kenya, Addis Ababa, and Cairo at a minimum).
  • Other European capitals with particular interests in the country (e.g., if the affected area is in Iraq, send also to Paris, London, and Berlin).
  • USCINCXXX-appropriate regional military addressee.
  • Others as situation requires.

3. Disaster Cable Contents

a. Subject

  • Country.
  • Type of Disaster.
  • Assessment Topic.

b. References

Cite any recent cables that are relevant to the report (REFTEL: cable # as appropriate).

c. Summary

This section of the cable can be more than one paragraph and should summarize the findings of the disaster assessment and any actions requested.

When requesting action for OFDA/W or other offices, clearly state the action in a summary paragraph identified with the designation "action requested." When the recommendation requires additional discussion in other paragraphs of the cable, identify these paragraphs by number in the summary section (e.g., see para 10).

Describe the disaster. How many people are affected? Where are they? For example, "A famine of significant proportions is developing in x as a result of civil unrest and drought. An estimated y people are affected and will require food for z months." Or for a fast onset disaster, "A typhoon of immense proportions hit the island of x, on y date. An estimated z people have been left homeless, agriculture destroyed, buildings damaged " Cite the sources for your statistics.

Summarize what is currently being done to handle the disaster on the local, national, and international level. Mention the presence of relief agencies, both local and international; military participation; etc.

What is the Mission/Embassy doing (briefly)? Has a disaster been declared? What are the team’s summary recommendations?

d. General Situation

This introductory section should give the reader a more detailed overview of the disaster than the summary. Describe the OFDA Assessment Team. Who was on it? What was their expertise? Where did they go? How did they get there? How long did they stay? Who did they talk/meet with? Has the Embassy declared a disaster? When? Has the $50,000 Disaster Declaration Authority been received? Expended? For whom/what?

Describe in more detail the disaster situation and provide sources for all applicable information.

  • What is the extent/enormity of the problem? When did the problem begin? What is the experience of the country in previous similar situations?
  • Where is the disaster occurring? How many people are affected? How many have died/are injured/ homeless/ill/displaced? If displaced, are they in camps? If yes, how many people are in them? What is the population profile (children/men/women/ages)? Are more people on the move? Are they moving within the country or is a potential refugee situation evolving?
  • How are the affected country government, UN/PVOs/ NGOs/IOs, and donors responding? Who are they using for staff (local, international)? Is there one organization taking the lead?
  • How are responders getting to the area (by road/air/boat)? Are they staying overnight or traveling there each day?
  • Are there particular political/social/economic/security factors that influence the event?

e. Food and Food Distribution

If the disaster is a famine or food shortage, describe the magnitude of the food needs, numbers of people, tonnage required, and tonnage pledged to date. (E.g., "The UN estimates that x metric tons of food are required in the next 6 months to avoid massive starvation. This comes to y metric tons per week.")

Describe the logistics of getting the food to the people: roads, water, air, relative costs, truck and worker availability, and any problems encountered (customs, contracts, etc.), including problems at ports and airports. In a conflict situation, note in particular any security problems associated with food movement.

What is being done? Who is distributing? How? Where? What problems have been encountered? Is the food getting to vulnerable groups, especially unaccompanied women and children? Mention should be made of availability of food in markets, prices, and the potential for a market sales program or other ways of getting food to people, such as food for work.

What kind of rehabilitation programs, if any, are under way (e.g., seeds and tools, fishing equipment)? Who is implementing the programs? Where?

Are there any security or discrimination (e.g., gender, ethnic) issues related to food distributions?

What more needs to be done? Further assessments? More pledges? Different foods? More funds?

f. Health and Nutrition

Describe nutritional conditions. What is the rate of malnutrition? Has it changed (improved/declined; in what areas/what groups)? Be as specific as possible. Cite sources. (E.g., "MSF/F surveys conducted in (month) have determined that rates of malnutrition of the under-5 population in x are y. Similar surveys in other areas report the same/different information.")

Describe mortality, especially in women and children. What are the death rates (crude mortality rate, under-5 mortality rate), if known? Are the rates under or out of control?

Describe the major diseases endemic to the area. Are they increasing due to the crisis? Are other adverse health condi-tions (e.g., trauma, injuries) being observed due to the disaster? Have there been any disease outbreaks?

What is the condition of the local public health system in terms of ability to provide health care (curative, preventive, emergency referrals), disease surveillance and response, and qualified healthcare personnel?

Describe current health relief efforts. What humanitarian actors are on the ground and in which locations? What interventions (therapeutic feeding/immunization campaigns/primary health care/reproductive health) are being implemented?

Are there any security or discrimination issues related to these programs?

g. Water and Sanitation

Are water problems associated with the disaster? Describe where the population obtains water (wells/boreholes/temporary facilities or trucking/piped city system). Is the water turbid? Is any information available related to the quality of the water? Note the general appearance and smell of the water.

What is being done about the water problems? Is the water being disinfected or otherwise treated? Are facilities available for water storage? How is water being distributed? How much water is available to people per day (liters/person/day)? Where are people getting their drinking water? Who is providing it? Is there safe and easy access to water for women? How far do people have to travel to obtain potable water? Do families have appropriate containers for collecting and storing water in the household?

Are sanitation problems associated with the disaster? What provisions exist for the disposal of human feces? Is there a sewer system, and if so, has it been damaged as a result of the disaster? Are there family-owned or communal latrines? Are there temporary sanitation facilities? Are there separate washing/sanitation facilities for women? Is there overcrowding? What is the ratio of persons to latrines? Are there solid waste disposal facilities? Are there provisions for disposal of medical waste? Is vector control a serious concern? Is a vector control program contemplated or already under way?

Is hygiene education being emphasized covering issues related to water supply and sanitation? Are qualified people available to advise, assist, and operate and maintain facilities? Is technical assistance needed?

h. Shelter

Describe damage to private and public buildings in the affected area and what caused it. What type of housing has been damaged/destroyed? How many buildings (private and public) have been damaged or destroyed? Is there likelihood that the cause of damage will be repeated in the foreseeable future? Has a value been placed on the damage? To what extent can the cause of damage be mitigated at reasonable cost?

Can materials from damaged structures be used to rebuild shelters? Are there building materials nearby? What types and quantities of building materials can the affected government provide for temporary or permanent shelter? What types and quantities of building materials are needed from external sources?

Describe the immediate needs for shelter, if any. What are the opportunities and constraints (land ownership and usage, drainage, sanitation) in meeting urgent shelter needs? Estimate the population in need of shelter. Are people at home? With relatives? In makeshift huts, community facilities, or at campsites? Is the need temporary (a few weeks), or does a displaced population require shelter for an indeterminate time?

Is there a need for clothing, water jugs, or cooking supplies (in a conflict situation, DPs will frequently arrive without clothing or household goods)?

Describe what is being done. Are there any local solutions? Who is in charge? What is the role and capacity of local government, UN, and relief agencies?

i. Capability and Capacity

As best as possible, evaluate the overall response to the disaster; the capability of the NGOs; both national and international collaborative efforts between them and problems identified; and the capacity of the host government and its policies, biases, and interests in assisting.

j. Coordination

How is the relief effort being coordinated? Who is taking the lead? Are there donors’ meetings or meetings with government officials? With NGOs? Where are they held and how frequently? Did the team attend any of them? What role has the Mission/Embassy been playing? What more needs to be done?

k. Recommendations

Outline immediate actions required (be sure to identify the action items, referenced by paragraph number, in the first paragraph of the cable). If commodities are requested, specify the item, quantity needed, and other specifications as appropriate; when the commodities are needed; and how they will be received, transported, stored, and distributed. If by air, information should be provided about runway capability (dirt/paved, damaged/ intact, length), air traffic control services, and possible security problems as appropriate. If additional expertise is needed, specify what type and when. Note any issues such as customs clearances, storage, special handling, and any holidays that may interrupt delivery. Recommendations can also include making additional funds available for project proposals, additional assessments, or mobilizing a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART).

TOC: Assessments