3.2 Rapid needs assessment

In the first days a rapid needs assessment should be carried out. Out of necessity this will be an initial snap-shot of the situation and immediate needs. Nonetheless, all assessments should be gender sensitive taking particular account of the needs of women and girls.

The checklist below summarises the information that should be included and highlights some other information that should be verified.

Checklist for Rapid Needs Assessment

Primary data collected by RNA

  • Beneficiary information, demographic, vulnerability profile, ethnicity.
  • Current situation: camps (formal and informal), makeshift shelters, collective centres, tents, hosting etc
  • Distance from home / place of origin.
  • Obstacles to return if displaced
  • Priority needs: shelter, WASH, food, livelihoods
  • Local building typology or vernacular
  • Local building practice: self-build, contractor, master masons etc
  • Damage assessment of houses
  • Current hazards and risks; forthcoming hazards (eg monsoon, cold weather etc)
  • Availability of land and materials.
  • Are markets functioning? Can building materials be procured?
  • Understanding tenure and security of tenure
  • Self-recovery: are there signs that the community is beginning to recover? Are some families being left behind in the self-recovery process?
  • WASH conditions and needs
  • NFI needs – clothing, blankets, mattresses, cooking sets, fuel, buckets, jerry cans etc
  • Livelihoods and employment before the emergency and after.


  • How long will it take for people to reoccupy their homes?
  • Are there risks to personal and community health, both physical and psychosocial?
  • Does the current shelter situation pose an increased risk of GBV?
  • Are there other hazards that might affect the future shelter security of the area?

Displaced persons

  • Where will these families go next? Is further displacement likely? What longer-term solution is possible to aim for?
  • How long are communities likely to be displaced? Is it going to be longer than the funding period?
  • What is the exit strategy?
  • Have people crossed an international border? Have they applied for refugee status?
  • Are people settling less than 50 km from the conflict or border? (UNHCR, 2007)
  • Are the transitional settlement sites big enough, safe and sustainable?
  • Are there any time periods affecting the use of land or existing buildings? (e.g. school terms, religious festivals, agricultural activities, weather cycles).

Coordination and governance of the emergency response

  • Which organisation is coordinating the shelter response: national government, UNHCR (conflict), IFRC (natural disasters) or another organisation?
  • Has a UN Shelter Cluster been activated?
  • Is there a Cluster shelter strategy?
  • What other organisations are planning a shelter response, including the government? Are they talking to each other?
  • Is the government offering compensation? What is the likely time-frame?

CARE’s capacity

  • Does the CO have sufficient resources and capacity? Can its programme support – logistics, procurement, H&E, HR – accommodate rapid growth?
  • Does the CO have experience in shelter programming? Do its partners? Does it need specialist staff?
  • Will donors cover both emergency shelter and reconstruction in an appropriate time frame?

Templates for household and community needs assessments in both urban and rural settings are here:

Templates should not be used without reviewing them and amending them to be suitable to your particular context.