Analysis is not a clear-cut term. It can refer to processing information or a final product. In this context, we talk about analysis as a sense-making process, in which investigation leads to better understanding of a complex issue. The results that come from an analytical process are clearly communicated to humanitarian decision makers, who can then make informed decisions.
Within the humanitarian sector, we are experiencing an overload of “information” that is coming out through donor reports, situation reports, monitoring and evaluation, needs assessments, periodical reviews, operational updates, etc. However, in complex humanitarian emergencies it remains challenging for humanitarian workers to bring all this data together to create a clear picture in order to make good decisions in a timely manner. In other words, although there is an information overload, this does not equate to people being better informed on humanitarian emergency situations.
A key difference between producing data and analysis, is that analysis is meant to give a clear, concise picture of the situation at hand, which will inform the decisions to be taken to relieve humanitarian needs. Humanitarian information therefore needs to be interpreted within the local context, as well as be based on past experience to increase situational awareness. This includes the assessment of current issues, risks, projections about the future, and potential recommendations. Analysis then, is the process of making logical sense of pieces of data, uncovering and describing trends, patterns and anomalies in the data, explaining and interpreting, and communicating main findings to decision makers in a compelling and persuasive way.
Questions that humanitarian analysts look at include:
- What are the drivers and contributing factors of a humanitarian emergency?
- What are constraints to providing assistance?
- What are key humanitarian needs, key priorities, key affected groups, and key priority geographical areas?
- What lessons can be learned from past similar disasters?
- What are future impacts of the current crisis?
- What recommendations can be made?
Though analysis in humanitarian settings is currently not supported by a standard straightforward approach, it is currently often used for similar outputs such as:
- Comparing the severity of the conditions between various affected groups and locations
- Explaining association and underlying factors
- Predicting/forecasting the evolution of the impact of the disaster
- Prioritizing most important issues and target groups
- Supporting the definition and selection of appropriate and proportionate response modalities.
Examples of analytical products as outputs:
- Needs analysis is the process designed to estimate or provide informed opinions about deficiencies, their underlying mechanisms and their humanitarian consequences. It entails a systematic set of proceduresand inquiry undertaken in order to define current and forecasted priority (Witkin & Altschuld, 1995).
- Situation analysis is broader than just needs analysis and entails both the assessment of needs AND the operational environment (humanitarian access, context, stakeholders, market functionality, response capacity, etc.) to provide all information required for an appropriate analysis of response options.
- Risk analysis looks at how a situation or disaster may develop. Looks at future humanitarian needs that may develop and with that tries to inform humanitarian decision making over a longer period of time
- Response analysis identifies whether humanitarian intervention is required in a given context, and if so, what that type of intervention might look like. This includes answering questions about program design, allocation of resources, and system improvement (ACAPS 08/2013).