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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2006 MDV : Evaluation of UNICEF's Response to the Tsunami Disaster (Maldives)

Author: Sandra Allaire, Celia Male, Sheila Reed, Suzanne Reiff and Lewis Sida; UNICEF NYHQ

Executive summary


The Indian Ocean tsunami disaster that took place on 26 December 2004 killed an estimated 227,000 people, of which more than a third were children, displaced 1,777,000 people and caused US$10 billion’s worth of damage. In the Maldives, 108 people either died or were missing and 12,000 remained in temporary accommodation a year later. The tsunami cost something like the equivalent of 86% of GDP in the year following the disaster.

UNICEF’s response to the tsunami disaster took place in eight countries. This country case study forms part of an evaluation of that response, and is one of a series of three case studies in Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, where UNICEF had allocated 87% of the total available Tsunami funds by 31 December, 2006 ($ 640 million). Information was also gathered about the response in India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Somalia and Thailand. A synthesis report pulls together the findings from these studies.


The overall purpose of this independent evaluation was:

• To identify major achievements of the response with a focus on the emergency and initial recovery phases, 26 December 2004 to 30 June 2005.
• To take note of any constraints and gaps in that response.
• To highlight potential policy implications for the future.

The main framework for the evaluation was UNICEF’s Core Commitments for Children in Emergencies.


The evaluation analysed UNICEF’s response using the framework of its Core Commitments for Children in Emergencies (CCC), the standard OECD/DAC criteria for evaluating humanitarian action, as well as SPHERE minimum standards, where relevant.

The methodology included the following main activities:
• A desk review of internal documents including audits, and external documents including the draft.
• Tsunami Evaluation Coalition (TEC) evaluations.
• Preparation of an inception report.
• Interviews with current and former UNICEF staff at country level, with the UNICEF regional office in Kathmandu, staff in Sri Lanka (of which the Maldives office had previous been a part), the New York Headquarters (NYHQ), Geneva and Copenhagen.
• Interviews with other key stakeholders including government officials, staff of other UN and partner agencies, international, national and local NGOs.
• Data collection including individual and group interviews, meetings and briefings and direct observation. All major findings were triangulated.
• Interviews with IDPs and members of host communities, all of which were treated as confidential.
• Draft findings were presented to the country team at the end of the field work.
• Preliminary and final draft reports were circulated for comment before finalising. A series of validation workshops were held in January 2006 in NYHQ with UNICEF departments and by telephone conference with the country office to discuss substantive issues arising from the draft reports.
• The CO produced a management response.
• This report was internally reviewed against the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance (ALNAP) Quality Proforma for humanitarian evaluation.

To ensure objectivity, the evaluation was conducted by a team of highly regarded, independent evaluators, with competence in health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation, child protection, and management.

Overall findings

UNICEF’s response was both appropriate and relevant, particularly given the size of the office pre-tsunami, the geographical constraints and the completely unexpected nature of the event. The Maldives office was small and unprepared for a large disaster and was in the process of merging with sister UN agencies. Operational constraints were considerable, such as limited transportation to the islands and lack of traditional NGO partners.

UNICEF’s impact was significant in a number of areas. The highly successful back-to-school campaign meant the Maldives 100,000 school children returned only two weeks later than the usual start of term; UNICEF worked closely in support of the GOM to achieve this (and the government has commended UNICEF highly for this). UNICEF provided school supplies to 30,000 children and commenced the construction of 39 temporary classrooms almost immediately. Several islands with large IDP populations received critical water supply from the 20 ROWPU plants. There was no major outbreak of disease in any of the affected communities. Areas where UNICEF might have done more include HIV/AIDS, child protection and gender issues.

UNICEF’s response was most effective in sectors where it already had strong pre-existing programmes and capacity, such as in health and education. UNICEF had considerable problems scaling up WES activities. In WES, the management of the large volume of inputs (to the value of some US$7 million) overwhelmed the staff and GOM capacity. For instance, UNICEF distributed 4,000 rainwater-harvesting tanks but a significant number of these were unused through the rainy season because of installation problems. UNICEF did not have the human resources to enhance its capacity in child protection, a critical sector in the CCC.

Over-arching recommendation

Many of the recommendations in this report fit with those from earlier evaluations and reviews of UNICEF’s humanitarian responses. The findings and recommendations of this and other relevant evaluations on emergency preparedness and response should be reviewed together to produce a comprehensive management action plan (MAP) with clearly designated accountabilities, in order further to improve UNICEF’s humanitarian performance.

Because of the inter-departmental and cross-organisational nature of the proposed MAP, this process and the implementation of the action plan should be overseen by UNICEF’s Executive Director, or one of her deputies.


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