M&E; for emergency response interventions

I’m just in the throws of writing up a report for AusAID; an evaluation of emergency response interventions in Pakistan following the earthquake in October 2005. 

The earthquake was 7.6 on the Richter scale and affected an area the size of Belgium.  An estimated 75,000 people were killed and over 3.5 million were rendered homeless…to say nothing of the widespread destruction of public infrastructure and services.

To visit the affected area is incredibly disturbing.

Part of the terms of reference of the evaluation was to examine the M&E of implementing agencies.  This has led me to reflect deeply on what is appropriate for an emergency.

Much of what was done by way of M&E during the emergency response appears to be ad hoc or informal/unstructured.  There appears to have been a focus on accountability (i.e. reporting to donors and powerful stakeholders) more than as a mechanism to drive learning.  There is certainly an absence of an overall ‘information architecture’ to inform M&E and to ensure that the data is of value…and is actually used at some point.

But then again, can we realistically expect anything different?  Is M&E a luxuary in acute emergency operations such as what was necessary in Pakistan?  Is is simply unrealistic to expect aid agencies to simultaneously (to use a football metaphor) ‘kick the goals’ and ‘keep the score’ in the heat of an emergency?

Maybe it is?  May be it isn’t?  I suspect the extent to which M&E is done appropriately in an emergency operation is itself an indicator of preparedness and a wider organisational commitment to accountablity and learning.

Hmmm.  Still pondering this one.

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