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Rapid assessments

Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • A variety of assessment methodologies and tools are available to better understand VAWG and to assist with the design of appropriate interventions. It is important to bear in mind that not all tools and approaches will be useful in all settings, nor relevant to specific goals of the assessment. For example, in the early stages of an emergency, multi-sectoral and rapid needs assessments are the most common ways to collect information safely and quickly (IRC, 2012).  After the immediate emergency has diminished, it is possible to undertake more comprehensive situational analyses.  
  • No matter what the phase, it is important that those conducting assessments determine the most efficient way to collect information for the designated research purpose; every effort should be made to avoid repeated research among beneficiary communities.  Similarly, every effort should be made to ensure that the research is action-oriented:  that is, it is not undertaken without a plan in place for how to use the outcomes of the research to improve the situation for women and girls who have experienced or are at risk of VAWG. 
  • Recently, the humanitarian community has agreed upon the “Good Enough” standard for needs assessments, literally determined by asking “what information is good enough to facilitate informed decision making needed at this point in the crisis?” This concept recognizes that a simple approach is often the best option in a fast-moving emergency situation. However, “good enough” should not be interpreted as rushed or sloppy; rather, it means realising that, in an emergency response, adopting an overly-complicated approach is simply not practical, and could actually do more harm than good (Source: Good Enough Guide).
  • A rapid assessment is an opportunity to collect information prior to designing an intervention; it can also be used to supplement or refine existing data. A rapid assessment is conducted over a relatively short period and aims to answer a few specific questions.  It can draw on any number of techniques including focus groups, participant observation, key informant interviews, in-depth interviews, or more participatory techniques such as mapping, pile sorts, community mapping, and seasonal calendars (Ellsberg and Heise, 2005).
  • Often, in an emergency, rapid assessments:
    • Can provide information on the type(s), extent of sexual and other forms of violence experienced by the community and help identify policies, attitudes and practices of key actors (IASC GBV Guidelines, 2005).
    • Are realistic in terms of the required time and resources available to collect information.
    • Adhere to international ethical and safety standards for collecting information on sexual violence during an emergency (IRC, 2012).
  • The purpose of a rapid assessment is not to provide a full, detailed account of all aspects of VAWG but to identify urgent problems, gaps in services, barriers to accessing services, and unmet ‘needs’ of a population which, in the early stages of an emergency, might include health, psychosocial and safety needs of women and girls, available medical and psychosocial services, the quality of these services, and general information about security risks women and girls are facing  (IRC, 2012). This information can then be used by VAWG actors in the design of their interventions, and can also be used to inform other cluster/sectors actors about how to improve VAWG protections (also see Section VIII on Prevention Mainstreamed through Key Humanitarian Sectors/Clusters).  

Example:  In Kenya, the GBV Sub Cluster conducted a rapid assessment of the 2007 post-election violence to examine the nature and scope of sexual violence that occurred during flight, as well as within the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and alternative settlements. The assessment evaluated the capacity of both community and camp-based programmes to prevent and adequately respond to cases of sexual violence in order to recommend strategies for strengthening gender and GBV programming in affected areas.  The results of the rapid assessment were used to advocate for camp-based and community-based programming changes. Specific issues included increased participation of women, improved lighting, segregation of latrines, and improved accessibility of health services (Ward, 2010).


See the assessment report.


Additional Resources:

The Global Protection Cluster’s Rapid Assessment Tool includes a comprehensive guidance note, checklists of questions and steps that need to be completed, and sample data collection tools, such as population survey questionnaires, key informant questionnaires, focus group discussion sample questions, and urgent action report templates.

The IRC has developed a GBV Rapid Assessment checklist, available here.

Another useful checklist is available on pages 33-35 of the Good Enough Guide.