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A.3 Assessment Process and Planning

The emergency HP assessment process usually entails: (1) Planning the assessment and identifying tools and resources, (2) Immediate rapid assessment, (3) In-depth (‘formative’) assessments as time allows and (4) Ongoing discussions and feedback with and from the community and other stakeholders. 

Baselines determine the starting point for subsequent monitoring M.2. The term ‘baseline’ is used in different ways by different organisations. For some, it refers to the situation before the emergency. For others, a baseline survey provides initial data to compare with an ‘endline’ survey to determine the changes attributable to the programme. Information from the initial rapid assessment and analysis should feed into the development of the programme baseline and help to identify what needs further investigation.

Designing and planning an HP assessment (either stand-alone or as part of a broader assessment) is a crucial step towards ensuring that the data collection and analysis process (1) is relevant to inform HP programmes and strategies, (2) does not duplicate the efforts of others and (3) can realistically be carried out with the available capacity and resources.

Assessment planning and design help to define the objectives, identify what to assess, plan the assessment process and mobilise the resources and expertise required. It is essential to focus on essential information, rather than what is nice or useful to know A.2. Human resources to conduct the HP assessment should be identified based on the objectives of the assessment. Different skills, roles and responsibilities are needed to ensure a timely and relevant process and can come from different sources (community-based organisations, volunteers, or staff). 

The purpose of the assessment is to identify gaps in existing information to inform subsequent HP programmes. During the acute scaling up phase the main information needed will be about the scale of the crisis and priority needs. Later, data will be required to address known issues, collect evidence, produce findings and investigate previously unknown problems. 

In emergencies, many actors from different organisations and sectors will carry out needs assessments. Information collected and analysed by others can be useful for understanding the crisis and communities. When the decision to undertake an assessment is taken, coordinate with key stakeholders P.9 to identify the type of assessment required and who will do what, where and by when. Participation or leadership of multisectoral or joint coordinated assessments are good options for producing a joint analysis of the overall situation and to ensure that key elements of HP are integrated.

The assessment process must ensure the participation of all segments of the population to enhance the relevance, ownership and success of the programme. The data collected must also yield added value to the population and be used to support their dignity and autonomy. Their permission must be sought to collect, use and store their data. It is also important to recognise that in an emergency people will often be traumatised; some may find an assessment intrusive. Hygiene promoters will need to know how to listen and communicate effectively in such situations C.2.

Process & Good Practice

  • Coordinate internally between HP, other WASH actors and other organisations and humanitarian sectors conducting HP assessments (such as health, nutrition and protection) during the assessment design and planning stage, using the appropriate coordination mechanisms P.9.

  • Plan and share your assessment and analysis with others to avoid duplication and decide who does what, where and when. An assessment working group with clear roles and responsibilities can be useful.

  • Coordinate and collaborate with relevant authorities at a national and local level (e.g. health, social welfare, education) P.9 in the assessment design and planning phase. This can empower institutions to sustain their efforts and reinforce their capacity. However, it is important to recognise that institutions and their staff have been affected by the crisis. Early collaboration may be confined to sharing information, strengthening as time goes on. 

  • Participate in, or lead, the development of common indicators and assessment questions to facilitate the collection and analysis of the harmonised and comparable data required to design and plan HP interventions. 

  • Develop clear terms of reference: define the purpose and objectives of the data collection and analysis and clearly formulate the ‘assessment’ questions you would like to answer.

  • Express the assessment purpose and objectives clearly by using words such as ‘understand, map, identify, determine, review and assess’, to help frame the actions. Be specific about why the information is useful as well as about the target population, geographical area, sampling strategy and methods to be used. 

  • Ensure that the assessment process is inclusive and accessible, including for people who have difficulty leaving their homes or communicating. Ensure gender-balanced teams where possible, including interpreters and collect information that is disaggregated by age, sex and disability as a minimum. 

  • Identify ways to enable the participation of both the affected community and local authorities. This could include inviting members of the affected community or the local WASH department to form part of the assessment team. 

  • Participatory assessment encourages community members to assess and analyse their own situation and can be a powerful tool to identify and stimulate community-defined actions.

  • Decide which methods and tools will be used (A.4 and chapter  T ). Focus Group Discussions T.14, Observation (T.28) and Key Informant Interviews T.23 are often used in the first phase of an emergency to collect primary WASH data; other tools include picture sets and mapping activities (e.g. T.51 and T.7). Questionnaire surveys (A.8 and T.24) require more time and planning and may not be useful in the acute emergency phase unless dedicated resources are available.

  • Assessment teams will need to be trained (ideally as a preparedness measure and including basic psychological first aid), supported and debriefed. Interpreters may also be needed on the team; checklists must be carefully translated. 

  • Consider including social scientists on the team; they can make a valuable contribution towards understanding social pathways of disease transmission and barriers to care and help in defining the methodology. Having their expertise at an early stage of the emergency is highly recommended. 

  • Approach administrative offices (such as statistics offices and survey units), research bodies (such as universities and polling companies), or community-based organisations for assessment information.

  • Communicate the findings and share information with affected communities and other humanitarian stakeholders.



To design a coordinated assessment to inform WASH or hygiene promotion (HP) programmes. 


  • Coordination and collaboration with all stakeholders P.9 are vital to ensure that resources are not wasted, existing information is used efficiently and effectively to inform the response and to minimise community assessment fatigue.

  • Assessment objectives and questions should be clearly defined and concentrate on essential information needs; for example ask ‘what information is missing to be able to develop the HP strategy?‘

  • An assessment should be initiated before programme implementation but, in a fast-onset emergency, immediate priority action may be needed based on a rapid assessment and refined through further assessment over time. 

  • The optimum possible level of engagement with the affected communities E.2 and local stakeholders should be discussed and ways found to engage appropriately. Different types of data must be collected from all segments of the affected population to ensure that the voices of the most marginalised are heard.

  • Effective assessment planning identifies constraints and opportunities in resources, accessibility and expertise so that data collection and analysis A.4 is realistic and the information timely.

  • It is impossible to respond to all the needs at once; the assessment will need to identify the areas of greatest risk, the people who are most vulnerable and use a phased approach to meet their needs.


Guidance on carrying out a needs assessment for field staff

Currion, P. (2014): Humanitarian Needs Assessment. The Good Enough Guide, Practical Action Publishing. ACAPS, ECB