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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder5. Initial Assessment, Immediate Response
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentOrganizing the Assessment
View the documentImmediate Response
View the documentProtection and Material Assistance
View the documentKey References
View the documentAnnexes

Organizing the Assessment

9. The initial assessment must be carried out on the spot as soon as it is clear that a refugee emergency may exist. The assessment must involve the government and other key actors.

10. Immediate access to the area where the refugees are located is, of course, a prerequisite. Getting the assessment underway as soon as possible requires quick, practical steps: establish a presence at or near the refugee site for first hand information, interview refugees, use other available sources of information, mobilize local expertise and resources.

11. While an organized approach is necessary, time must not be lost simply because the desired expertise is not immediately available. Where UNHCR is already present, initial action must not be delayed pending the arrival of staff with more expertise.

A quick response to obviously urgent needs must never be delayed because a comprehensive assessment has not yet been completed.

12. Planning the assessment involves setting the objectives, establishing the terms of reference and selecting team members. The assessment plan should indicate which information should be collected and the report should make clear if it was not possible to collect that information.

13. If UNHCR is not already present in the country, the assessment mission will normally be organized by Headquarters.

14. Any problem and needs assessment should start with a review of the existing background information (mission reports, media articles, situation reports, local maps). Ideally, a contingency plan would have been prepared and kept updated and would provide input for the assessment and the immediate response. UNHCR Headquarters can provide maps and geographical information from a computerized database. The maps and information can be tailored to the specific requirements of the assessment. The assessment should also include interviews with the refugees and others involved.

15. Tools commonly used in assessments are:

i. Questionnaires;

ii. Checklists;

iii. Visual Inspection.

16. A combination of tools is normally used in order to cross-check the conclusions. Questionnaires and checklists (see Annex 1 for a basic checklist) are particularly useful because they standardize the approach and force the assessors to plan ahead and decide which information needs to be collected. Visual inspections provide general information and can put into context data from more systematic assessments.