On 26 December 2004, one of the biggest natural disasters in modern times occurred in Southeast Asia: a seaquake triggered two tsunamis that devastated large areas in 13 countries and claimed some 215,000 lives. Around 15 million people were affected and 1.7 million lost their homes. Swiss Solidarity received 227.7 million francs in donations, which the foundation has used by the end of 2014 to implement 183 aid projects in the countries most affected. In addition, an impact evaluation was carried out shortly before the tenth anniversary of the disaster.
The purpose of the evaluation is to provide an accounting to the Swiss public of the impact of the funds they provided to Swiss Solidarity in the aftermath of the Asian Earthquake and Tsunamis of 26 December 2004
The evaluation is intended primarily as an accountability evaluation but is also intended to identify lessons for future Swiss Solidarity operations.
Team leader, is economist and with 30 years experience in development and humanitarian assistance with a focus on institutional and organisational development processes. He started his career in rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance in West Africa. As international expert he was involved in a wide range of evaluations and policy studies, mainly as team leader of often large international teams. He has ample experience and expertise with the design and implementation of large evaluation studies linking organisational learning with public accountability. He is guest lecturer in humanitarian evaluation at various institutions of Higher Education and associate researcher of the Department of Disaster Studies of the University of Wageningen. He often works on issues that involve simultaneously Government, private sector and NGO’s. He has ample working experience in many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
She is a skilled professional with extensive field experience in project management, and monitoring and evaluation in countries in transition from emergency to development. She has worked for a UN peacekeeping mission, private sector, and INGOs serving in many conflict-affected countries, including Serbia, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Uganda, the Republic of South Sudan, Pakistan, Israel and Democratic Republic of Congo. Paola has eight years of experience in the management of relief and development projects. She has conducted internal evaluations, supervised the set up of monitoring and evaluation systems, and provided technical assistance and training for M&E to UN, INGOs and consulting companies.
Measuring the effect of the aid delivered after the 2004 tsunami, the most extensive and important evaluation ever commissioned by Swiss Solidarity shows that humanitarian relief is an exceptionally challenging endeavour. Many other factors – such as often contradictory political decisions and changing economic parameters and social developments – play a far more pivotal role in the wake of a major disaster and have a much larger impact on the relief work environment. This finding is important in order to raise greater awareness for all potential external influences on aid work when planning future projects.
At the same time, the study has also found that the construction of homes in particular – which with 178 of the 227 million francs donated accounted for the bulk of the aid – had a positive effect that went far beyond the material support to include improving the beneficiaries’ economic and social situations and contributing to a widespread sense of satisfaction. Swiss Solidarity will therefore continue to place emphasis on housing construction and reconstruction work.
Cause for concern however is the realisation that it remains difficult to support the poorest of the poor – often casual labourers lacking any form of training – within the framework of disaster relief. Even receiving a new home like everyone else does not amount to a secure future for them. And this is where Swiss Solidarity will certainly need to adapt its strategy of linking emergency relief with reconstruction and development work.
As a final important finding, I would like to stress that active and transparent communication, even of critical results, is essential in today’s environment. This helps create trust, encourages debate and promotes understanding for humanitarian aid.