NFI and shelter items are distributed on the basis of assessed need which is determined either through an inter-agency rapid needs assessment (IRNA) or cluster-specific assessment, depending on the situation.

The objective of the assessment is to better understand the emergency context and identify the extent of need among the affected population. In the majority of cases, no distribution will take place unless some kind of assessment is first conducted and the needs are confirmed by reputable partners. With limited resources available, a needs assessment ensures that shelter and non-food items are given to the populations that require them the most.

Assessments should always consist of some combination of household interviews with the affected communities, group discussions with the affected communities, key informant interviews, and direct observation. Of these, direct observation is probably the most useful for the Cluster, as the need can be immediately, objectively and accurately identified based on sight. When conducting needs assessments, partners are looking for:

  • Are there legitimate beneficiaries present? How many?
  • What kind of NFIs, if any, do the people have?
  • What kind of shelters, if any, are they living in?
  • What is the household size and how many people are there per shelter?
  • Are there local materials available and does the population have the means of procuring them?
  • How are people coping? Is there a host community providing sufficient support?
  • Are local markets available? Does the population have purchasing power?
  • What are the populations’ intentions? Will they remain where they are or move somewhere else?

The only exception to the Cluster's stance on assessments is in the case of Survival Kits. The locations to which Survival Kits are delivered are those that have been cut off from assistance for an extended period of time due to insecurity and protection concerns, and thus the Cluster operates under an assumption of need.