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Humanitarian assistance often lacks needs assessment
Date:11/9/2007

The first academic thesis in Sweden on international health assistance in disaster zones is to be presented at the medical university Karolinska Institutet. In his thesis, Dr Johan von Schreeb shows that international assistance is often sent to disaster areas without any prior needs assessment having been made of the affected population.

Dr von Schreeb has carried out needs assessments in a number of disaster situations. He examined the need for international medical assistance after the terrorist action in a school in Beslan, Russia, in 2004, and the low-intensity conflict in the Palestinian territories in 2002. He also studied the use of Foreign Field Hospitals in the natural (sudden impact) disaster zones of Bam (Iran) in 2003, Haiti and Aceh (Indonesia) in 2004 and Pakistan (Kashmir) 2005). What he discovered was a lack of understanding of peoples needs subsequent to the disaster and that international assistance takes inadequate account of existing resources. International field hospitals specialising in life-saving trauma care were dispatched to four areas of natural disaster. Not one arrived within the 48 hours in which lives could still be saved.

If appropriate assistance is to be provided, organisers need access to information about the disaster, the affected area, the size of the population, the socio-economic situation and the available local and regional resources. International donors of humanitarian assistance have jointly decided to distribute the money on the basis of local needs. There are well-described methods of making needs assessments, but the results are too rarely used. One of Dr von Schreebs sub-studies examined the extent to which Sida took account of needs assessments in its decisions to fund humanitarian health projects in 2003. Only one third of these decisions contained information about the size of the population to be helped or other factors reflecting their health needs.

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Contact: Katarina Sternudd
katarina.sternudd@ki.se
46-852-483-895
Karolinska Institutet
Source:Eurekalert

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