According to a review by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) the UK humanitarian aid response to typhoon Haiyan corresponds with green. What indicates that ICAI thinks that “the programme meets all or almost all of the criteria for effectiveness and value for money and is performing strongly.” Wonderful, as this must indicate that the combined effort of DFID, MOD, UN agencies and charities in the Philippines was effective, efficient and had an proper positive impact on those affected by typhoon Haiyan. Or is the ‘traffic light’ not as green as portrayed by the review and reported by the Guardian?
The ICAI uses a ‘traffic light’ system in their reviews to score the aid effort of the UK government. The Rapid Review, not full ICAI review, of the effort in the Philippines aimed to “undertake a timely assessment of the impact and effectiveness” with a “beneficiary-centric view of the support.” In the terms of reference for the review the ICAI raises concerns, such as the “short notice and a tight review timeline” with only a week to visit the Philippines. In the Rapid Review itself ICAI clarifies that the restricted scope did not allow to “validate the precise numbers” [p14] or “identify loss, wastage or fraud.” [p11] Despite of this, it seems that ICAI felt confident that the value of the review was sufficient to justify the highest score of green.
I am not able to judge if the UK humanitarian response to typhoon Haiyan deserves green or not, but I seriously doubt the value of the ICAI Rapid Review. I think that with an average of visiting 6 sites per day [annex A6], spread over at least 5 islands [annex A3] in an disaster stricken area it leaves little time for the ICAI review team to talk to the estimated 215 beneficiaries [annex A6]. Regardless of the time spend with these beneficiaries, it is probably a questionable sample size, as the 215 only represent 0.0215% of the 1 million that received direct support from DFID [p1] and less than 0.0016% of the total affected population [p2]. Aside from this the funding overview in annex A1 leaves over £7.5 million (>12% of total) without proper allocation.
How does the ‘traffic light’ turn to green amid all the constraints recognised by the ICAI themselves and the questionable value of the information? I think the ‘traffic light’ is broken as it jumped to easily to green in this case. Something that should have been recognised by not only the ICAI, but also the Guardian. The publication and unbridled media attention allows people such as Justine Greening to colour the UK humanitarian aid efforts a little bit too rosy. It leaves the general public who pays for the effort, with a false impression of what is achieved with their money.