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NGO Responses to Hurricane Mitch: Evaluations for Accountability and Learning

Working papers

In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused the first regional disaster in Central American history. Winds, flooding and landslides killed 9,000 people, and seriously injured 13,000 more. The storm destroyed or badly damaged almost 80,000 homes, leaving 300,000 people homeless. Thousands of Central Americans required rescue and emergency medical care, and millions needed humanitarian relief aid.  

This Network Paper combines insights about NGO responses to Hurricane Mitch from three major sources:

• Huit mois après Mitch: Bilan des actions et premières leçons, an evaluation of the French NGO response carried out by the Groupe Urgence-Réhabilitation-Développement (Groupe URD).

• An evaluation of the British NGO response, commissioned by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) and conducted by a team of consultants brought together by Espacios Consultores Asociados S.A. of Costa Rica.

• A ‘companion study’ to the DEC evaluation, Scaling-up After Hurricane Mitch: A Lesson-Learning Study for the Disasters Emergency Committee, by Sarah Lister.

This paper does not compare the performance of French and British NGOs, nor was this an aim of the respective evaluations, which were separately designed and implemented. If anything, the impression conveyed by both evaluations is that French and British NGOs face the same challenges, and are grappling with many of the same issues.

This paper also makes no comment on the comparative quality of these evaluations, or on the relative position of evaluations as a whole in the French and the British aid worlds.

What this paper does offer is:

• a synthesis of key attention and learning points from the response to Hurricane Mitch. Most are, in general terms, transferable to other crisis responses;

• an example of inter-agency NGO evaluations, and their potential value for organisational learning;

• an example of the sorts of questions that evaluations pose, and ideas for designing evaluations; and

• an analysis of the role of inter-agency platforms in public appeals and fund management.

François Grunewald, Véronique de Geoffroy and Sarah Lister