Independent affirmation for Christian Aid's tsunami work

By staff writers
December 28, 2007

An independent evaluation of UK-based international development agency Christian Aid’s tsunami programme, which was published last week, has praised its strong and committed response, especially in building new homes.

The Synthesis Study evaluation, involved five expert analysts and was edited in its final form by Hugh Goyder. It looked at projects in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, noting: "Unusually for an evaluation exercise of this breadth, the results are strongly positive. The key common elements are the richness and diversity made possible by Christian Aid’s partnership approach. This not only allows for a more locally relevant response, but also greatly facilitates the transition process from relief to recovery, and wider social development."

Christian Aid will have spent more than £40 million by the third anniversary of the tsunami on successfully rebuilding lives and homes in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Most of the money – 42% – has gone on rebuilding and repairing 22,000 homes - more than any other of the largest aid agencies in the UK.

The report concludes that ‘Christian Aid has been able to make a strong and committed response to the tsunami, in which its use of a wide range of partner agencies has been its distinctive contribution.’

Anthony Morton-King, Christian Aid’s tsunami manager, welcomed the evaluation.

He declared: "The evaluation has provided much food for thought and some useful suggestions for improving the current tsunami response as well as future humanitarian responses, which is exactly what we had hoped for. We are delighted that the overall tone of the report is very positive and complimentary about the programme. We appreciate that there will always be lessons we can learn to improve the way we do things and we will endeavour to do so from this evaluation in the future."

Christian Aid received £37 million from the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal, which was launched a few days after the tsunami, and raised a further £10 million from its own appeal. All the allocated DEC funds have been spent and next year extra money from the DEC as well as money from the Christian Aid appeal will be used for further recovery work.

Despite the huge amount of funding available, the overall response to the tsunami faced many initial constraints – including a long history of conflict in Aceh and Sri Lanka, initial problems of access in Aceh, too many agencies offering assistance and government regulations on rebuilding in certain areas.

But the evaluation says the highlights of the Christian Aid response were the successful provision of housing, especially for the poorest, and reducing discrimination in the distribution in aid in India.

It also singles out Habitat for Humanity which was commended by the Indonesian government for their inexpensive houses which are built to withstand future earthquakes.

In Sri Lanka, as in India, the impact of the shelter programme was that "beneficiaries who were economically and socially marginalized and have never owned land before or lived in houses made of temporary materials have a house and land to call their own."

In India 75 per cent of a relatively large sample of households contacted during the evaluation said that their new houses had ‘produced a sense of security, social status and much needed physical comfort and protection across the families in the communities.’

"Christian Aid has taken a strong stance on the need to report back to its supporters on its response to the tsunami," the evaluation adds. "It believes it has a duty to inform and educate the public about how money has been spent and that future supporter relationships depend on people trusting the organisation."

"This report confirms that Christian Aid’s distinctive strength is its ability to build and maintain strong relationships with a wide variety of partners. While this is also at the heart of the organisation’s philosophy, it is unusual to get such a consistency of supportive findings across three very different countries."

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