Measuring humanitarian needs: need assessment and resource allocation in southern Sudan and Somalia

Working and discussion papers
September 2003
Mark Bradbury, Charles-Antoine Hofmann, Stephanie Maxwell, Dineke Venekamp and Abigail Montani

This case study, one of five, is part of a research project by the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) on the assessment of humanitarian needs. The focus of the study is the international system, exploring the link between needs assessment and decision-making (by agencies and donors) about response and resource allocation, with a specific focus on the food and health sectors. The underlying concern is with global funding disparities: levels of funding do not seem to correlate with levels of need, and the most urgent cases are not consistently prioritised. Yet the humanitarian ‘system’ lacks a consistent and objective basis for deciding which those cases are, and the means to decide about the allocation of resources between competing priorities.

The focus of this study is southern Sudan and Somalia, where protracted conflicts and a lack of state capacity to provide for the welfare and protection of civilians produce annual demands for international assistance. These aid programmes are long-standing, complex and multifaceted. This study focuses on the food and health sectors, and the protection needs of displaced populations. It considers three thematic areas: conceptual issues; the practice of needs assessment; and information and the decision-making process.