Recovering from Disasters

An effective response to disasters can save livelihoods as well as lives, and set the affected communities quickly back on the path to recovery. When responding to disasters we consider how to address the root causes of the emergency at the same time as responding to life-saving needs. 

Including ‘recovery’ into disaster response 

In emergency response projects, it is very important to do ‘recovery’ well. For most projects this is the time when the activities end, or the inputs are completed. For protracted crises, this is a very difficult stage if the circumstances which keep populations in a place of humanitarian need have not changed. Therefore ensuring that the community is left more stable and secure is a critical part of creating an enabling environment for development projects to begin. 

There is no clear point where humanitarian ends and development begins. Rather, there is often a time when peacebuilding, humanitarian response and development all have to operate together. It is good practice in the design of projects in complex situations to be regularly reviewing activities and constantly analysing the economic and political situation within which the project works. 

Build Back Better 

Building back better is often associated with ensuring earthquake building codes are adhered to, or a school is reconstructed with better access to toilets. For Tearfund, however, ‘building back better’ goes far deeper. We ask ourselves: ‘How can we better target the most marginalised and excluded?’, or ‘How do we ensure protection and gender practices are integrated and adhered to by the community?’ These questions ensure that should another crisis or disaster hit, we have placed the greatest emphasis on those who would be affected most, ensuring that their previous trauma or marginalised status is not compounded further. 

The importance of learning 

Learning, reflecting and adapting is a crucial part of our response and recovery process. Tearfund collates key learning around our Quality Standard commitments in order to facilitate learning from our experiences and continual improvement. However, at the end of a project it is important to identify transferable learning and below you will find some focused learning we have generated from our previous work, as well as research and case studies.

Resources on Recovery 


External evaluation reports from disaster management projects undertaken by Tearfund’s operational teams and partners are a valuable source of learning and good practice. You can find these on our evaluation page.

Useful websites on improving recovery

Owner Driven Reconstruction
This is an approach which promotes local ownership and more cost-effective recovery, while integrating risk reduction approaches. 

International Recovery Platform
An international source of knowledge on good recovery practice, IRP has a more specialised role as an ‘international mechanism for sharing experience and lessons associated with build-back-better’. 

Linking Preparedness, Resilience and Response
In a Start Network funded project, Christian Aid, along with some other network members, completed an action learning project on some practical aspects of integrating the ‘nexus’ of preparedness, resilience and response. 

ALNAP – Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance
ALNAP is a global network of NGOs, UN agencies, members of the Red Cross/Crescent Movement, donors, academics and consultants improving humanitarian performance through increased learning and accountability.