Reconstruction Assessments

Assessing Needs and Resources

At the beginning of the reconstruction phase, one of the first tasks is to assess needs and resources and plan with local people about the long-term rebuilding process.

Emergencies: After a disaster, needs and priorities change rapidly, and early assessments are made during the emergency and relief phases. Core Standards apply to assessments under the SPHERE Charter. The EMMA toolkit is also designed for rapid assessment of the market resources and capacities available in the emergency and relief phases.

Reconstruction phase: Assessing needs and resources in this phase needs to be more bottom-up and qualitative than is often possible during the emergency phase. 

Important principles in assessing needs and resources in the reconstruction phase

Assessing needs and resources in this phase needs to be more bottom-up and qualitative than is often possible during the emergency phase. It needs to incorporate the following principles:

  • Taking time. Reconstruction should be planned from early on in the recovery process (possibly starting 3 months after the disaster), but time is less critical than during the initial relief phase. It is more important to get it right than to do it quickly.
  • Enabling participation. To make reconstruction ‘people-centred’, those affected need to play a central role in determining needs, priorities and resources. Often this participation is facilitated by NGOs. There are a few examples of communities carrying out their own needs assessments successfully.
  • Using appropriate methods. A wealth of participatory methods exists which describe how people can be effectively involved in generating and analysing their own information. Some are outlined, with links to further details, in PCR Tools 4 (Assessments) and 7 (Planning with the People).
  • Building trust and sharing information. This can be difficult in a post-disaster context where people are vulnerable, or feel they can gain more by exaggerating their losses. Facilitators must be open about how information is going to be owned and used. It is usually better to start with less contentious exercises such as producing seasonal calendars, before moving on to issues such as a stakeholder analysis of who holds power. Triangulation using different methods, and the checks and balances of full participation help ensure information is accurate.
  • Including everybody affected. Facilitators need to make sure that discussions are not dominated by one or two people. This can include breaking into smaller groups, or holding separate discussions for particular groups of people.
  • Coordinating agencies to reduce duplication. There is a danger that communities will be overwhelmed with organisations carrying out these assessments, often using the same or similar tools, but failing to share the results. There is a great need for co-ordination and sharing between agencies, and for communities to own the process and results.


The following provide more information on tools for assessment:

  • PCR Tool 4: Assessment of Reconstruction Needs and Resources

Provides an overview of how to carry out a broad needs and resources assessment, what it should cover, and examples of how it has been applied.

If rebuilding is going to make people and houses more resilient should the same disaster strike in future, we need why houses collapsed in the first place. We also need to understand the underlying vulnerabilities of the people themselves which contribute, for example, to poor maintenance of houses or people choosing lower quality building technologies in the first place. This tool outlines what we need to learn from past disasters, and covers Vulnerability Assessments (also see V2R below), Structural Damage Assessments, and Disaster Risk Assessments

  • V2R Framework From Vulnerability to Resilience: A framework for analysis and action to build community resilience. 

This book gives guidance on carrying out vulnerability and capacity assessments covering hazards, livelihoods, governance and future uncertainty. 

Outlines how to carry out Community Action Planning (one of the best sets of participatory tools for settlement planning), and the differences you may find in applying this in a post-disaster reconstruction context. This usually follows the assessment of needs and resources.

These are participatory methods to analyse market systems. EMMA relates to emergencies, and PMSA to ‘normal’ conditions. The analysis is done with the participation of actors all along the market chain. They can be used to assess the capacities of particular markets, and plan for how local markets and livelihoods can be restored.

  • Technical Brief: Permanent Shelter for Housing, Infrastructure and Services Design - Planning Process

This Technical Brief describes tools for participatory assessments that were used in reconstruction following the Tsunami in Sri Lanka. 

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