Measuring humanitarian need:A critical review of needs assessment practice and its influence on resource allocation

Research reports and studies
February 2003
James Darcy

This discussion paper describes some of the preliminary findings and provisional conclusions from the ODI ‘Measuring Needs’ study, one part of the research programme commissioned under the Humanitarian Financing initiative. The study is due to be completed in April 2003. Based on five case studies and focussing on the international humanitarian system, it explores the link between needs assessment and decision-making (by agencies and donors) about response and resource allocation. 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.

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