Characterization of US Military Humanitarian Aid in Perú 2010-15

Sunday, February 14, 2016
Raga Ayyagari, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
The US military spends a significant amount of money each year on humanitarian assistance projects, often in support of strategic goals and regional stability. These projects are organized by geographic region and encompass development, disaster relief, and health related projects. For example, in the Southern Command, approximately $130 million are spent annually on projects in South and Central America. The long term impact and sustainability of these projects is unknown. This study sought to characterize the health support projects completed by the US Department of Defense (DoD) in one country in Southcom (Peru) from 2010-2015, analyzing trends in the goals, execution, and evaluations of impact. This evaluation assessed qualitative and quantitative trends in project cost and location, humanitarian goals alignment, and impact assessment from a sample 36 completed project nominations and after action reports from the Overseas Humanitarian Assistance Shared Information System (OHASIS). The evaluation found that majority of the projects were short-term (average of 21 days) medicine donations, cost on average $13,274 per project, and were conducted primarily in the Huanuco region, where there are high levels of coca production and associated insurgency. 28 out of the 64 mention humanitarian goals in the project reports through “building security and sustainable stability in the host nation” as a primary motivation. Metrics of impact evaluation included average self-reported scores for the extent to which the community feels the project was responsive to local needs (4.19/5), will improve quality of life (4.13/5), and achieved its intended outputs (4.36/5).  However, the concept of sustainability and partnership is not reflected in the impact analysis framework. While the self-reported score on collaboration with local governments averaged 4.42/5, the rating of collaboration with local governments on evaluating the project was only 2.74/5. Only 25% of the projects mentioned some level of capacity building or training in its sustainability plan. Based on this evaluation, we would recommend the following: 1) that the DoD leverage its logistical and training strengths to establish more long-term partnerships with local projects; 2) systematically define sustainability and impact through unified indicators and surveys; and 3) invest in more robust monitoring and evaluation through internal and external evaluations to ensure that their efforts align with their goals and yield the highest social and diplomatic return on investment.