Coordination Tools: Needs Assessment

Coordinating needs assessments is important to provide a holistic understanding of the situation and needs of people affected by a crisis. They give the necessary evidence-base to design and implement responses that save lives and restore people's livelihoods. Supported by emergency preparedness, timely and quality assessments help build an effective humanitarian response.

A coordinated assessment consists either of a single assessment exercise including various sectors, or of the combination of various sectoral assessments analysed together. Coordinated assessments are planned and carried out in partnership with humanitarian actors. They form the basis for needs-based strategic planning and system-wide monitoring, and constitute the first phase of the Humanitarian Programme Cycle.

A series of tools and guidance to support and strengthen coordinated assessments in humanitarian contexts are available, such as:

  • Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) template: The HNO document compiles results from various sectoral and multi-sectoral assessments to identify priority humanitarian needs to be addressed. It feeds into the next stage of the programme cycle, strategic planning. It also highlights information gaps and country plans to address these gaps.
  • Operational Guidance for Coordinated Assessments: The guidance describes how to plan and carry out coordinated multi-sectoral assessments.
  • Humanitarian Indicator Registry: The registry lists the principal needs and response monitoring indicators for each sector/cluster and provides a unique identifier, similar to a p-code, for every indicator.
  • The Humanitarian Dashboard: It is one of the four priority OCHA information products and is an IASC agreed tool that presents a succinct and primarily visual overview of progress towards meeting needs in a humanitarian response. It allows stakeholders to quickly understand the strategic priorities of a response, the key figures characterizing the crisis, and the most important humanitarian needs and related response per sector.
  • The Multi-Cluster/Sector Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) guidance: The Guide explains how to jointly design and execute a multi-sectoral needs assessment in the initial weeks of an emergency, including IASC system-wide level 3 emergency responses (L3). It is a precursor to subsequent cluster/sectoral needs assessments.
  • Kobo Toolbox: Kobo Toolbox is a suite of open source software for field mobile data collection and analysis, which can be used in needs assessments to promote a standardised, reliable, simple and efficient approach.

The Coordinated Assessment Support Section (CASS) within the Programme Support Branch (PBS) in Geneva provides guidance and coordinative support to assist the humanitarian actors in reaching common understanding of the humanitarian situation and needs, and to guide the next steps of strategic planning, monitoring and resource-mobilization. 

CASS also leads internal efforts to build OCHA and partners’ capacity to coordinate multi-sectoral assessments and analysis. This includes clarifying the OCHA policy on coordinated assessments, enhancing staff capacity at global, regional and country levels to coordinate assessment and analysis, and providing technical advice to OCHA field offices on assessments and joint analysis across sectors.

In 2015, CASS provided support to needs analysis in more than 20 countries, and conducted 20 separate field missions to support a coordinated and strengthened approach to such exercises.