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The Center for Refugee and Disaster Relief


Rapid Assessment Procedures (RAP)

William Weiss (1,2) Paul Bolton (1,2) Anita Shankar (2)
(1) Center for Refugee and Disaster Response located at The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.
(2) Department of International Health, The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.

United States Agency for International Development and The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Complex Emergency Response and Transition Initiative


This guide contains tools and procedures for collecting information with and about refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in transition.  We use participatory learning and action methods as a way of involving refugees and IDPs as partners in assessment, planning and action.  We use qualitative methods as a way of systematically communicating with refugees/IDPs, and thereby improving our understanding of their situation.  Our purpose in developing this guide is to assist aid agencies to investigate a transitional situation in partnership with refugees/IDPs’ and from their viewpoint, as a basis for more effective interventions. The tools and procedures described herein aim to achieve three main objectives:

  • To understand refugee/IDP priorities, challenges and aspirations.
    This information is used as a basis for deciding what priorities to address and how.
  • To learn who are the significant persons and organizations within and beyond the refugee/IDPs
    This is a basis for deciding whom we need to work with.
  • To facilitate participatory planning, problem solving and taking action with refugees/IDPs.
  • This process is used as a basis to reinforce or build capacity of refugees/IDPs to carry out organized problem solving activities using existing resources.

The guide was written for program planners and other government and non-governmental organization (NGO) staff working with refugees and IDPs. Although this guide places a heavy emphasis on qualitative methods, it is not intended solely for those with formal training in the social sciences. It includes both individual and group-based data collection methods. It also includes verbal and visual data. We purposively seek input from a cross-section of refugees/IDPs to form a broad consensus of the current situation.  The information gathered forms the basis for planning and carrying actions—in partnership with refugees/IDPs—to address a top priority problem(s) from the perspective of the refugee/IDP population.

This guide is divided into three main sections.

Section I provides an introduction to the guide. This includes information about the rationale for the goal and objectives of the study, and information needed to plan the study.

Section II uses group interviews, individual interviews and observation techniques to identify the refugees’/IDPs’ top priority problems for action. Special emphasis is given to problems that can be addressed (at least partially) with existing resources among the community and partner agencies. The information collected in Section II is also used to identify a ‘settlement action team’ or ‘action team’ that will work closely with the study team in Section III.

In Section III the study team works closely with the settlement action team to draft an action plan to address one or more of the refugees’/IDPs’ top priority problems. This ‘draft’ action plan is then approved or modified at a public meeting.


(a) Transition refers to the time between the acute phase of a disaster and the completion of return or resettlement activities. The type of settlements that 'transition' populations live in vary from camps or resettlement areas to communities of origin. Throughout this guide we use the term settlement to denote the place where transition populations are living.

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