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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2014 Global: Real-Time Evaluation of UNICEF’s Response to the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

Author: James Darcy, Team Leader; Enrico Leonardi, Senior Consultant; Patrick Robitaille, Senior Consultant; Maiden Manzanal, National Consultant; Jérôme Gandin, Researcher

Executive summary

With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports.  Please ensure that you check the quality of this evaluation report, whether it is “Outstanding, Best practice”, “Highly Satisfactory”, “Mostly Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” before using it.  You will find the link to the quality rating below, labelled as ‘Part 3’ of the report.


This real-time evaluation (RTE) of UNICEF’s response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines was undertaken between February and June 2014.  It is based on an assessment of the first four months of the response, based on field visits, interviews with key informants, discussions with community stakeholders, documentary review, online survey and analysis. Its purpose is to draw conclusions and make recommendations for the on-going response and to identify wider lessons for UNICEF with regard to future large-scale emergency responses. In keeping with the corporate nature of UNICEF’s response, the RTE was managed by the Evaluation Office and undertaken by a team of external consultants.


The RTE assessed UNICEF’s response to the typhoon under three headings:

(i)   UNICEF’s own programme
(ii)  Its contribution to the wider response, particularly as cluster co-lead
(iii) UNICEF’s organisational processes, capacities and management structures, and how well these served the response.


The programme was evaluated against criteria of timeliness, relevance and appropriateness, coherence, effectiveness, efficiency, coverage, coordination, connectedness of relief to recovery and the longer-term programme. Compliance with UNICEF’s Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action and other relevant standards – internal and external – were also considered.

Findings and Conclusions:

The areas hit by the typhoon were not areas where UNICEF had an existing programme presence. UNICEF nevertheless responded quickly, declaring this a Level 3 (L3) emergency and institutional priority on 11 November 2013 and quickly deploying the Immediate Response Team (IRT) and other surge capacity to the Philippines, initially to Tacloban and progressively to other affected areas. The subsequent relief response was boosted by an extraordinary fundraising response from the general public through UNICEF national committees. With regard to its own programme performance, the immediate challenge for UNICEF was to spend the money raised in a way that was timely, appropriate and relevant to priority needs, and effective in tackling those needs – while adding value to the wider response and linking to recovery and longer-term priorities. 

Beyond UNICEF’s own programme, it had significant responsibilities as co-lead with government and others of the Education, Nutrition and WASH clusters, as well as the Child Protection area of responsibility. Senior staff were deployed for several weeks from all Global Clusters at the outset of the crisis. This team set the basis for activating the relevant clusters, identified most of the cluster coordinators and information managers, defined the structure of decentralised clusters in the field, and provided inputs to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for all the L3 and Transformative Agenda-related commitments.

The RTE considered the extent to which UNICEF’s organisational processes, systems and management structures helped or hindered the response to Typhoon Haiyan. The activation of the Corporate Emergency Activation Procedure (CEAP) and L3 protocols was appropriate and timely, though some argue it could perhaps have been made a day earlier. The pre-agreed Simplified Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) were fully applied here for the first time by UNICEF, and were generally agreed to have proved their worth.

In conclusion, there are a number of important areas of learning from the Haiyan response. Many examples of innovative good practice were found, but so too were some factors that limited the effectiveness of the response overall.

The Philippines is one of a category of crisis-prone but capable countries where UNICEF needs to reconsider the nature of its role in relation to government. While in this case, UNICEF worked relatively well with both national and local government, this approach was largely ad hoc.

A more structured approach, worked out in advance in the framework of higher level collaboration for preparedness, could have provided the basis for significantly greater coverage than was possible in this case, as well as reducing the time and transaction costs of establishing new agreements. This could have reduced the need for the hands-on operational approach taken by UNICEF.


Preparedness, internal and external, with an overall emphasis on re-aligning the response role of UNICEF in relation to government in collaboration with other actors.
Needs assessment, clarifying UNICEF’s role both in the aftermath of rapid-onset disasters and at the reconstruction phase.
Strategy and planning, including the harmonisation of UNICEF’s own strategic planning process with that for the wider United Nations Strategic Response Plan, and the need for a rolling advocacy strategy.
Sectoral responses, including the promotion of synergy between sectors, better metrics for performance management, and some sector-specific issues including the use of cash transfers.
Communication with communities, particularly relating to clarity and transparency on what can be expected of UNICEF and its partners, and the need for clearer feedback and complaints mechanisms.
Partnerships, including the need to develop a wider partner base in the Philippines – relying less exclusively on INGO partners – and to review the use of PCAs or alternatives in crisis-prone contexts.
Monitoring and reporting, stressing the need to inform real-time operational decision making through basic output monitoring while building on the more multi-dimensional humanitarian performance monitoring information system (HPMIS) approach developed by the Philippines Country Office (CO).
UNICEF’s cluster (co-)lead role, including the need to clarify respective roles with government at national and subnational levels, and review supervision arrangements for cluster staff in country.
L3 procedures, the IRT and surge deployments, emphasising the need to ensure a better fit between existing CO staff capacity and surge deployments.
Management of transitions, including the need to ensure greater continuity of senior management at CO level in L3 emergencies, and for a recovery plan to be formulated by the three-month mark.

Lessons Learned:


You will find the Typhoon Haiyan RTE report below, and herewith is the Evaluation Brief.

Full report in PDF

PDF files require Acrobat Reader.



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