2008 India: Evaluation of UNICEF's Flood Emergency Response in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh
The Floods of 2007 caused widespread damage in Northern Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh and are reported to be among the worst in recent decades. The Bihar floods of 2007 caused severe damage and are described by many as the “worst in living memory”. As per the Bihar State Department for Disaster Management Report, the floods affected 11,850 villages in 22 districts out of total 38 districts. A total of 24.8 million persons were affected and over a million persons were evacuated. It is estimated that 960 lives were lost. Already frail surface road networks were badly damaged rendering a large number of the affected villages inaccessible for considerable period. Three major spates of flood were observed in Bihar, the first starting in late July, followed by mid- August, and the last one in early October. Some people were displaced more than once and had to spend considerable time in spontaneous displacement on high grounds (river or road embankments) or relief camps.
The Floods of 2007 affected 1.2 million people mostly in 22 districts of Eastern Uttar Pradesh in late July. It affected more than 2,546 villages out of which about 1350 villages were marooned. Approximately about 60,000 children below the age of 5 years were reported to be affected. Most affected districts in terms of severity were Bahraich, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Barabanki, Gonda, Shravasti, Balrampur, Basti and Azamgarh and Kushinaga The flood response in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh was the first time intervention at this scale for UNICEF state teams both in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The government response in both the states was reported to be significantly better than in the past and particularly so in the context of Bihar. Several United Nations (UN) agencies and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) also responded to the needs of the affected population. UNICEF’s response has been analysed against the emergent needs in both the states and governments’ response. The government responses in the two states were of different nature, given their capacities and the extent of damage caused due to flood. The principle goal of UNICEF’s interventions had been to complement the government in its efforts to keep the incidence of preventable disease to a minimum through focused interventions in key sectors, guided by the Core Corporate Commitments (CCCs) for emergency response.
The objective of the evaluation is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the Relevance, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Impact and Sustainability of UNICEF’s flood emergency responses in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The Terms of Reference is provided in the Annex (N).
The scope of the assignment includes both desk review and consultations with different stakeholders in the flood affected areas of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The assessment included: Discussion/ briefing by UNICEF ICO at Delhi and State Offices; Review of existing documents and materials including strategy documents, plans, proposals, monitoring data, mission reports, and previous UNICEF evaluations that focus on emergency response; Discussions with NGOs/ Government functionaries at District and Block level involved with relief; Affected population in representative villages.
The desk review was done based on documents provided by the UNICEF ICO at Delhi and the two UNICEF State offices in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Following the desk review and the discussions with Government officials and UNICEF State office staffs, field visits were made to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In Bihar, a total of 30 villages spread across 10 blocks in the 4 flood affected districts (Muzaffarpur, East Champaran, Khagaria and Samastipur) were covered. In Uttar Pradesh, 19 villages/hamlets spread across 9 blocks in the districts of Maharajganj and Bahraich were covered. The selection of districts was done in consultation with UNICEF State teams.
Key Evaluation Findings and Conclusions
UNICEF’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP) for 2007 were last updated in July 2007 in both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It provided basic vulnerability mapping, and identified the most vulnerable districts, which are in turn selected for pre-positioning of emergency supplies in Bihar. Bihar pre-positioned supplied for 40,000 families, however, there was no pre-positioning done in Uttar Pradesh. Supply of these materials was available with local partners by the last week of July 2007. In Bihar the local NGOs partners swung in to action much before the local administration and reached out to affected population with available supplies. In adherence to CCC, both the UNICEF state teams largely targeted its interventions to children through sectoral interventions in the area of water and sanitation, health, nutrition, education and child protection. Despite large-scale flood devastation and high risk, the objectives had been achieved – no major outbreak of diseases was reported in either Bihar of Uttar Pradesh.
The overall response in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh can largely categorised in two phases i.e. the initial response phase which started with pre-positioned materials and lasted for maximum of two weeks and which followed by intensive response phase which lasted for almost four months in case of Bihar and little less in case of Uttar Pradesh. The following section details out the conclusions for each of the states separately and also draws out the recommendations for future emergency response for UNICEF.
The flood response in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh was the first time intervention at this scale for both the UNICEF State teams. The Government response in both states was reported to be significantly better than in the past and particularly so in the context of Bihar. Several UN agencies and NGOs also responded to the needs of the affected population. In adherence to CCC, both the UNICEF State teams largely targeted its interventions to children through sectoral interventions in the area of water and sanitation, health, nutrition, education and child protection. Despite large-scale flood devastation and high risk, the objectives had been achieved. No major outbreak of diseases was reported in either Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. The overall response in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh can largely be categorised in two phases i.e. the initial response phase which started with pre-positioned materials and lasted for maximum of two weeks and which was followed by intensive response phase which lasted for almost four months in case of Bihar and a little less in case of Uttar Pradesh. The following section details out the conclusions for each of the states separately and also draws out the recommendations for future emergency response for UNICEF.
The key recommendations of the evaluation exercise are as follows: The Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP) as a document recognises the risk posed by flood and indicate UNICEF’s preparedness to respond to such eventuality. This, however, is currently not informed by the spatial diversity in frequency of floods across the state. Given the recurrent nature of flood, it is advisable that UNICEF details out the EPRP in such a manner that it can also be used as a contingency plan. The plan, besides recognizing the flood vulnerability of the region, can include the operational aspect of the intervention. This is one issue which requires further attention, especially for pre-positioning and managing operations during emergencies. UNICEF needs to further develop and strengthen its partnership with local NGOs. This is essential in view of high recurrence of floods in both states. Similarly, the nodal NGOs have to be provided with sufficient time to develop partnerships with other local NGOs, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and communities for an efficient relief operation. Timely sharing of its commitments on flood response with local partners including local NGOs would be very helpful in micro level planning of interventions. In view of the delay reported during the initial emergency supplies (though orders were placed timely with the vendors), UNICEF may think of providing some flexibility by allowing state level procurement in times of emergency, identifying vendors nearer to high risk states and finding ways to minimize lead time between supply order and the actual supply at the destination. Such changes will of course have to be within the quality control and other procurement norms of UNICEF with flexibility granted where ever feasible. The role of district based coordinators for cross sectoral liaison and logistic coordination with the Government departments and civil society organizations at the time of emergency requires further strengthening. This is applicable particularly in the case of Bihar. Deputing a nodal person at the district level to coordinate all relief efforts including being made by various sectors may help strengthen this aspect. Data management on stocks and movement during emergencies by both UNICEF and its partners provides for space for further improvement. Another critical gap is on account of lack of district level consolidated documentation of UNICEF emergency support intervention that may be useful for future reference. A suitable data base structure may need to be developed for efficient monitoring of relief operations. This can be made applicable for recording local requirements as well as stock and movement of relief materials and efforts. Similarly a proper database structure may also be developed for disease surveillance. Sharing the same with district teams may facilitate in producing analytical reports for informed decision making and better coordination of relief operation. Certain operational guidelines on approaches and practices for engagement of local partners with other NGOS and volunteers are necessary so that the NGOs do not short-change the inputs of volunteers especially in times of stress. To build continued support at local level, it may be essential to implement clear guidelines of engagement, code of conduct and basic support like safety gear, group insurance for the period of their engagement. This may increase interest and motivation among local partners. Government being the major role player during the emergencies, UNICEF should continue to share its learning and advocate for necessary modification in intervention policies and norms. Some positive outcomes have already been achieved in Bihar and the constructive pressure needs to be sustained.
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