Afghanistan: Evaluating 2015 earthquake emergency shelter response to improve future post-disaster programmes

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Badakhshan earthquake photo

In the mountainous Jurm district in Northeastern Afghanistan, epicentre of the earthquake, access for humanitarian organisations is extremely hard during the harsh winter months ©Sune Engel Rasmussen-2015

In October 2015, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Badakhshan province, leaving over a hundred dead and tens of thousands displaced across Afghanistan’s most mountainous region. The earthquake struck during the lead up to winter, which only exacerbated the need to provide immediate winterized shelter assistance. Given the difficulty of accessing many affected areas, cash grants were distributed by Afghanistan’s Emergency Shelter and Non-Food Item (ESNFI) cluster partners to both completely destroyed and partially damaged households, in order to fund fuel, essential winter NFIs, repairs and reconstruction work.

Given the large number of districts and households affected and the financial size of the response, REACH, on behalf of the Global Shelter Cluster, conducted in November and December 2016 an assessment of the ESNFI cluster’s emergency shelter response to the earthquake, in order to evaluate its impact on household shelter conditions and measure its successes and limitations. This involved interviewing almost 1000 households among the beneficiaries of cash assistance, whose homes had been partially damaged or completely destroyed in some of the earthquake’s most affected areas.

One year after the emergency response, the assessment found that although much of the original cash assistance package was directed towards food, a significant amount was used by all households to fund shelter repairs, resulting in a consistent improvement of the shelter conditions of many. A third of those assessed have completed their household repairs, whilst another third have begun their repairs, currently on hold or ongoing. Almost all respondents reported that they were able to access local markets and that shelter materials and labour were available. Crucially, this means that the cash intervention gave affected communities the freedom and power to manage their own redevelopment.

However, the assessment identified some gaps and limitations in the ESNFI cluster’s shelter intervention and offers a number of recommendations to improve post-disaster cash assistance programmes in the future. As the level of household damage might differ from household vulnerability and shelter needs, displacement coping mechanisms ought to be included in a baseline shelter needs assessment, so as to better identify those most in need and effectively tailor the response. In particular, a gender analysis should be incorporated, considering that women tend to be more present inside shelters due to cultural conditions and daily household tasks. Subsequently, response planning should focus more thoroughly on income generating habits and other priority needs, to ensure funds are distributed accordingly and spent for their intended use.

The findings and recommendations from this assessment, published in the Shelter Cluster Badakhshan Earthquake Response Evaluation Assessment Report, will help strengthen future emergency shelter responses implemented by Afghanistan’s ESNFI cluster, with which REACH will continue working closely in the future.


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