November 04, 2011
After the January earthquake, a number of donors and NGOs began large scale food distribution programs. Post earthquake surveys had found a large spike in food insecure households directly after the earthquake. A recent World Bank Policy Research Working Paper from Damien Échevin notes that three weeks after the earthquake “31% of the households were experiencing limited or severe food insecurity (22% and 9% respectively), that is a [sic] nearly double the food insecurity prevalence observed before the earthquake.” In a follow up survey four months later, the number of food insecure households had decreased, but only to 27 percent. Échevin concludes:
So, shortly after the earthquake, assistance programs allocation prove not to have been effective in targeting the most vulnerable people in the directly affected area. Five months after the earthquake, it appears that things had not really changed: although food assistance may have contributed to decrease the prevalence of food insecurity over the period, authorities still seemed unable to provide an efficient allocation of assistance programs…indeed, assistance also appeared to benefit less to families headed by women and less to households with disabled members, which is contradictory with an “optimal” targeting that would make those most vulnerable eligible for assistance in priority.
The World Bank report also has some interesting conclusions about Food-for-Work and Cash-for-Work plans:
When focusing of cash and food-for-work programs, we find that these programs are not specifically targeted at people who are most in need, be it because of their low level of subsistence or because of earthquake-related losses. Pre-earthquake participation to programs appears to be an important determinant of post-earthquake participation. What is more, cash-for-work is very rarely declared as the main source of household income.
The report provides some statistical backing to the first-hand accounts of the problems with food distribution in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and with the problematic Cash-for-Work programs from USAID/OTI.