4. Activating the assessment process

The CARE International Board has determined that CARE will respond to emergencies as the rule, not the exception. Therefore, a CO should always conduct an appropriate level of assessment, no matter how brief, until there is a consensus that either a response should be initiated or that no response is required.

The assessment process should begin with a preliminary rapid review of all available secondary information, followed by a decision as to whether to conduct a field assessment, for the example in a rapid-onset emergency, such as an earthquake (section 4.1). In a slow-onset emergency, there may be more time to analyse and monitor the situation.

When Actions and decision questions

  • Determine other responses through contact with the governmental agency responsible for emergency response, UN representatives and other NGOs, and verify the emergency through available news, government, peer agency and field office reports.
  • Do initial reports suggest a significant humanitarian impact?
  • Has there been a request for humanitarian assistance?

If no, continue to desk review for further verification.

If yes to either above, proceed to desk review and simultaneously commence plans for deployment of assessment mission.


0-72 hours
  • Conduct a review of secondary data (preferably previously stored on Minerva) and of all available assessment data.
  • Is the scale of the emergency significant?
  • Are there humanitarian needs that are not being met by authorities and local agencies that are already in place?

If no, continue with monitoring until information is conclusive.

If yes to either of the above, proceed with immediate deployment of the field assessment mission.

24-72 hours
  • Deploy field assessment mission

Use assessment mission findings to inform the decision to respond. Refer to section 7 and Protocol C5 Response decision-making.

Whenever possible assessments are led by national governments, as they have a prime responsibility to lead humanitarian efforts. Assessments should be designed to promote ownership, or at the least engagement, by national and local authorities, including the national disaster management agency, line ministries and other national capacities (e.g. NGOs).

CARE should always consider conducting coordinated field assessment. Such coordinated assessments are those planned and carried out in partnership by humanitarian actors, and of which the results are shared with the broader humanitarian community to identify the needs of affected populations. Such assessments range from inter- and intra-cluster/sector joint assessments to harmonized single agency assessments.

Harmonized assessments occur when agencies collect, process and analyse data separately, but where the collected data is sufficiently comparable (because of the use of common operational data sets, key indicators, and geographical and temporal synchronisation) to be compiled into a single database and used in a shared analysis.

Joint assessments occur when data collection, processing and analysis form one single process among agencies within and between clusters/sectors, and lead to the production of a single report. This is sometimes also referred to as a “common assessment”.

In contrast, uncoordinated assessments are those in which data sets are not interoperable, and results cannot be used to inform the overall analysis.

Joint assessment have many advantages, including:

  • reducing the ‘assessment burden’ on communities
  • promoting common methodologies and understanding of the situation
  • facilitating coordinated response planning
  • sharing resources.

Joint assessment missions are appropriate if the participating organisations share common values, operational principles and assessment methodologies (IFRC 2005, see Annex 4.6). Joint assessment missions should not be considered with organisations whose mandate, values or perception in the community may compromise CARE’s impartiality. At a minimum, ensure coordination and information sharing

In some emergencies, especially very large rapid-onset disasters, it is clear from the immediate verification stage of the emergency that a response is necessary. In these cases, initial response activities should commence at the same time as the assessment process, if it is feasible. It is advised to take even minimal assistance with you in these situations, to avoid going in to devastated communities empty-handed.