WFP Evaluation of Liberia programme
WFP recently commissioned an evaluation of the 1990- 1995 'period of WFP emergency operations in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote dIvoire. Three million people have been affected by the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the region. Some of the more important findings of the evaluation were as follows.
Emergency food deliveries (and to a lesser extent, distribution) were of a very high standard. Huge amounts of food reached areas and people in need under the most difficult physical and security conditions.
However, a big problem for the whole programme was the lack of detailed information on the socio-economic characteristics of affected populations. This made targeting very difficult and led to situations where marked differences in coping ability among the affected populations were neglected and confused by over generalisations about seW-sufficiency for example, classifying all refugees in one population as 'integrated into host families', without taking into account the fact that many were clearly better assimilated than others.
This became even more of an issue in 1992 when improved food security in the region led to a policy of graduat ration reduction aimed at encouraging greater self-reliance. The revieWers questioned the appropriateness of a policy which was being implemented in a context of inadequate information. An important conclusion from the evaluation was that ways and means need to be found to improve the capacity of joint WFPIUNHCRJdonorINGO food needs assessment missions to find out about, and monitor, socio economic circumstances of beneficiary populations. Failure to do this increases the risk that WFP will not learn enough through these assessments to make targeting effective and meaningful.
Safety net selective feeding programmes were set-up m addition to the general ration throughout the region. These programmes were said to have had a positive impact in terms of ensuring weight gain in the malnourished but suffered several limitations. These included:
- children often being discharged from feeding centres to the same conditions that led them to become malnourished in first place;
- a large numbers of defaulters; and
- high running costs (the monthly cost offood alone was about four times higher than that of the basic general ration).
The evaluation team concluded that after the initial crisis when selective feeding was appropriate because of the high rates of malnutrition, it may have been more cost effective to allocate the food through the general ration thereby preventing malnutrition rather than trying to cure it.
WFP assistance was first channelled through six country-specific emergency operations. Following the escalation of the Liberian crisis and the increasing complexity of the overall operation, a regional "umbrella" approach to channelling assistance was introduced. On the positive side this meant that regional resource reallocation between countries, cross- border operations, local purchases of palm oil, swap operations and the cost-effectiveness of deliveries were all enhanced. It was therefore easier to allocate food and non-food resources more flexibly and rapidly depending on the pace and extent of population movements and changing need. However, on the negative side this approach encouraged a tendency to apply an oversimplified standardisation to the food basket and rations possibly leading to too much food being provided to some and not enough to others.
The evaluation also concluded that replacement of high value rice with less expensive commodities (bulgar wheat in Liberia and Sierre Leone and maize meal in Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire) was generally a good idea.
The switch to Bulgar wheat/maize meal:
- reduced rates of food misappropriation;
- had limited effect on rice prices and therefore farmers' incentive to produce it;
- probably led to better self-targeting as only the most needy families would have wanted these types of food; and
- provided a higher calorific content (in the case of Bulgar wheat) than polished rice.
The evaluation team felt that the change to cheaper cereals should have happened earlier in the programme especially given previous recommendations made by assessment teams.
For the full Evaluation report contact Christine Van Nieuwenhuyse at WFP, Via C. Colombo 426, 00145 Rome, Italy.
Taken from Field Exchange Issue 1, May 1997