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Market mapping toolkit to boost emergency response

Trader at Treichville market, Abidjan
Trader at Treichville market, Abidjan (Anthony Morland/IRIN)

Experts have developed an Emergency Market Mapping Analysis (EMMA) guidebook and training programme to improve the humanitarian community’s ability to respond to rapid onset emergencies.

“Markets are critical to how people survive and run their lives. The most important thing to people is to be able to earn a living and get food on the table,” Mike Albu, a market development consultant and EMMA developer, told IRIN. “Ultimately, once the emergency is resolved people need functioning markets to continue on with their lives.”

Since 2007, the US Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) has collaborated with experts from OXFAM, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee, spending almost one million dollars to develop a 10-step guidebook, and train humanitarian practitioners to be able to conduct a market analysis in rapid onset emergency environments.

Coined EMMA, the procedure they have developed is appropriate for teams of 5-10 relief workers, providing a quick, rough-and-ready picture of the goods and services most critical to the survival of the local economy, in a matter of weeks. This enables practitioners, even those without market analysis expertise, to assess where aid could best support local livelihoods, making aid more efficient and effective.

EMMAs have already been conducted in 10 different countries around the world, including the recent Haiti earthquake (2010) and cyclone Nargis (2008) in Myanmar. By the end of 2011 almost 200 relief practitioners will be trained to use the toolkit, train others to use it, and to lead an EMMA mission in a rapid onset scenario.

More efficient aid

The knee-jerk response of the humanitarian community to a natural disaster or sudden onset emergency is often to immediately ship or airlift in commodities such as food, clothing and shelter, said Tony Stitt, a regional adviser with OFDA. But that response ignores local capacity and can lead to more expensive and less effective aid.

“In post-Nargis Myanmar, it cost around US$35 to ship a single plastic tarp from overseas, but only $60 to make a house locally out of thatch materials,” said Stitt, who conducted market analysis in Myanmar following cyclone Nargis.

“Our analysis revealed that housing materials were readily available; people just needed money to buy them.”

EMMAs can point out when a cash-based initiative (giving loans or vouchers to buy local goods) could be more effective, allowing relief organizations to spend less money and ultimately giving the local population more choice as to how they re-build.

Reducing dependency

Understanding the local market better also ensures that aid does not put local providers out of business, ensuring long-term economic recovery.

“Understanding the market helps us come up with not only a cost-effective and more efficient response but also gives us a better exit strategy,” said Emily Henderson, an EMMA specialist and regional coordinator with OXFAM who led an EMMA mission in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. “By providing aid through local food and shelter suppliers rather than simply replacing them, you reduce the dependence on foreign aid in the long-run.”

In the future, EMMA reports of past disasters could be useful for disaster preparedness.

“Having a baseline analysis of critical markets, particularly in recurrent places like Haiti and Vietnam would make us better off the next time it hits,” said Albu.

With that in mind, the developers have created a website where all EMMA reports will be posted and freely accessible.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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