177667 Measuring the effectiveness of disaster relief with population-representative samples: Challenges and opportunities

Monday, October 27, 2008: 8:48 AM

Alison M. Buttenheim, PhD, MBA , Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholar Program, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Assessing the effectiveness of post-disaster relief and reconstruction efforts is notoriously difficult. Researchers and development professional face three specific and related challenges: First, the “treatment area” for post-disaster aid is not known until after a disaster occurs. Second, an appropriate “control group” is hard to identify. Third, several time points are relevant for impact evaluation, including pre-disaster, immediately post-disaster, and after reconstruction. Fourth, disaster-related displacement introduces considerable selection bias when surveying affected populations. While qualitative case studies and analyses of convenience samples of affected areas can provide some insight, these studies usually cannot be used to draw causal inferences about either the specific detrimental effects of the disaster or the benefits of relief and reconstruction aid. In this paper I review the use of population-representative surveys as baseline samples for impact evaluations of post-disaster relief. Three case studies are discussed in detail: The 1998 floods in Bangladesh, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and the 2005 Pakistan earthquake. For each case study, I highlight the difficulties in identifying a baseline sample, review data collection efforts and impact evaluation studies that were carried out post-disaster, and identify lessons learned that can be applied in future disaster settings.

Learning Objectives:
1. List four challenges to conducting impact evaluations of post-disaster relief and reconstruction. 2. Articulate the benefits of using population-representative surveys as baseline samples for impact evaluations of post-disaster relief. 3. Describe the impact evaluation experiences in three post-disaster settings (Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan) and the lessons learned from these experiences for future disasters.

Keywords: Disasters, Evaluation

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctorally-trained researcher with expertise in this area.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.