Evidence Matters

Why Evidence Matters

When disaster strikes, the best interventions can save lives and help shattered communities rebuild. Knowing what works and what doesn’t can be the difference between life and death. That’s why Evidence Aid is championing evidence-based practice and providing a go-to resource for key players who need advice fast.

As spending on humanitarian aid reaches record levels, people are waking up to the need for more reliable evidence[1] [2]. In the last decade, nearly 1.6 billion people worldwide have been affected by disasters. The total cost of damages was estimated at more $1.3 trillion. In 2015 alone, investment in international humanitarian aid hit $28 billion (USD) – the highest level ever. The scale is phenomenal.

Yet even as increased spending allows humanitarian work to become more professional[3], there’s a consensus that one vital component is still lacking – evidence[4] [5].

Without evidence driving an emergency response, poor decisions can be made and lives lost needlessly. It’s no coincidence that in crisis situations with high death rates and widespread illness, the evidence base for health programming is worryingly weak.

Evidence Matters; Please watch our video explaining the role of evidence:

New challenges

Of course, aid organisations already have an invaluable understanding of what works. But as the sector grows, keeping abreast of the latest research isn’t easy:

  • evaluations of field work are poorly circulated
  • knowledge is constantly changing
  • the volume of research on any given subject can be vast and inaccessible.

The only answer is to pool resources and share expertise right across the humanitarian sector – something Evidence Aid is keen to make happen.

Aid under scrutiny

Evidence doesn’t just save lives, however. In this age of scrutiny, it’s also vital for proving impact and demonstrating value for money. The media is ready to pounce on mistakes and donors know that poorly executed humanitarian interventions can not only lead to lives being lost, but can also cost them critical public support. Increasingly donors are demanding value for money, cost-effective solutions and proof of impact. Any aid agency keen to demonstrate its worth needs to take evidence seriously.

What’s the solution?

For all these reasons, it’s crucial decision makers are equipped with high quality, unbiased information. Robust evidence will help guideline setters formulate policy that maximises impact. And it will help donors plug worrying gaps in the evidence base by directing investment where it’s most needed.

But what about the cost?

We know evidence is already saving countless lives in high-income countries. Over the last 80 years, evidence-based healthcare has completely transformed life expectancy, recovery and illness prevention. But it’s harder to replicate in low income countries. Aid agencies would need significant funding for research and evidence to achieve the same rigorous standards. Indeed spending on research and development in the humanitarian sector is shockingly low compared to other sectors[6]. That’s why Evidence Aid wants to help agencies work together, pool knowledge and save money.

Championing evidence to save lives and save money

Evidence Aid offers many benefits to aid agencies and the sector as a whole, including:

  • quick access – to the latest academic research
  • lower budgets – aid agencies can exploit existing resources and stop doing the same research on common issues, dramatically reducing duplication and waste
  • knowledge sharing – by convening key players and facilitating networking, expertise is shared right across the sector
  • thinking outside the box – agencies are directed to helpful evidence in new places, like Cochrane
  • shared knowledge on common issues – standardised interventions mean fewer variations in health outcomes
  • more of a united effort on the ground – thanks to agencies adopting similar evidence-based approaches
  • greater accountability – as agencies show funders greater proof of impact, value for money and cost-effectiveness.

Evidence Aid has provided governments, agencies NGOs and individuals with the most reliable information in order to take the right choices in difficult circumstances…The work they are doing is important for mankind.”

Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council (2012).

Want to know more about Evidence Aid resources?

Whether a project needs advice on crush injuries, post traumatic stress disorder or nutritional support, Evidence Aid can exploit the latest research at speed and provide critical advice including:

  • a searchable resource – of the most up-to date, locally relevant evidence
  • an in-depth review – of the best available external evidence from systematic research
  • a clear steer – on the best interventions.

Keep in touch

If you want to help drive greater use of evidence across the sector, or integrate evidence-based practice into your organisation, get in touch to see how we can help, sign up for our newsletter, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

People are dying because of lack of evidence.”

Mike Clarke, Founder and Research Director of Evidence Aid.

[1] K. Blanchett et al., “An evidence review of research on health interventions in humanitarian crises” [Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA), Cardiff, UK, 2013]; www.elrha.org/r2hc/ evidence-review.

[2] Evidence Aid Priority Setting Group, PLOS Curr. 5, 10.1371/currents.dis.c9c4f4db9887633409182d2864b20c31 (2013).

[3] Sphere Project, The Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response (Practical Action, London, 2011).

[4] K. Blanchett et al., “An evidence review of research on health interventions in humanitarian crises”. [Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA), Cardiff, UK, 2013]; www.elrha.org/r2hc/ evidence-review.

[5] R. F. Grais et al., Confl. Health 5, 21 (2011).

[6] Deloitte, World Humanitarian Summit, The Humanitarian R&D Imperative: How other sectors overcame impediments to innovation (New York, Deloitte, 2015)