Humanitarian aid and natural disasters: An impact evaluation in Pakistan

Publication Details

Alexandra Avdeenko, Markus Frölich, Juanita Vasquez-Escallon
Institutional affiliations
None specified
Grant-holding institution
None specified
South Asia
Health Nutrition and Population, Water and Sanitation
Rural Livelihoods, Disaster Relief, Nutrition
Gender analysis
Rural Livelihoods, Disaster Relief, Nutrition
Gender analysis
Equity Focus
None specified
Evaluation design
Randomised Control Trials (RCT), Mixed Methods
Ongoing 3ie Funded Studies
3ie Funding Window
Humanitarian Assistance Thematic Window


Pakistan faces the risk of a range of natural hazards, which have led to recurrent disasters in past years, leaving behind critical gaps and heightened vulnerabilities within affected communities. Chronic malnutrition rates are also high and according to DHS data from 2013, 45 per cent of children under the age of 5 were stunted, 11 per cent were wasted and 30 per cent were underweight. These figures are even higher for rural areas. In this setting, interventions that target areas that are constantly under pressure from natural disasters are key to prevent degradation of their already fragile situation.

The interventions studied here aim to deliver integrated, multisectoral and residual recovery that builds local capacities, meets life-saving needs and supports community-level recovery in a way that enhances resilience for the future. Treatment is thought out as a holistic approach that tackles underlying causes of malnutrition, namely inadequate access to food and an unhealthy environment, with distributions that comprise food security and livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene, and shelter and non-food items. The evaluation fits in a key moment of the project, which runs for four years between 2015 and 2019 in four one-year cycles. This long-term approach via one-year planning enables timely response and adaptation to different scenarios. The impact evaluation takes place in the first year, making its results readily available for making decisions on the project itself in the later years.

Research questions

  • Is the implementing agency’s humanitarian aid package effectively improving outcomes for food, security and livelihood (FSL), water, sanitation and hygiene, (WASH) and shelter in villages?
  • Can an improvement in intermediate outcomes improve life quality, regardless of whether an extreme weather shock occurred or not?
  • Can the implementing agency’s humanitarian aid package increase preparedness when extreme weather shocks occur?


The programme aims to achieve enhanced capacity to respond quickly to natural disasters and improved design of recovery interventions leading to reduced overall community vulnerability to emergencies. The identification strategy allows capturing the causal impact of residual recovery interventions in the face of extreme weather events. Furthermore, different treatment arms were implemented to test different approaches to residual recovery.

The baseline data was previously collected in November and December 2015. The implementing agency, ACTED, carried out a base-needs assessment in 400 at-risk sub-villages of Badin and Kashmore districts in November and December 2015, and interviewed 4,000 households in the process. Additionally 400 focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted which included ten participants on average who  were asked about the situation in their village. Their responses were quantified and recorded. The research team included 301 village clusters in their analysis. After eliminating non-eligible clusters, 287 village clusters remained. In each of the clusters about 15 people were interviewed and at least one FGD was carried out. 148 village clusters were randomly allocated to a basic humanitarian recovery package described above. The other 139 were allocated into the control group which did not receive the humanitarian package. Within the 148 village clusters that already received the humanitarian recovery package, the following treatment arms were further randomly allocated to receive in-person training on WASH, shelter and FSL components. Additionally, some randomly selected households would also receive reminders via phone calls on key messages of the trainings they attended. The phase-in evaluation design allows the scale up of the interventions in control villages in the coming years.

This award has been granted to the University of Mannheim.

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