The Humanitarian Emergency Settings Perceived Needs Scale (HESPER)

A 26-item tool used to rapidly assess perceived serious needs of populations affected by large-scale humanitarian emergencies. Developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the HESPER combines elements of survey research (i.e. sampling) and participatory methods for assessing needs. Respondents for surveys are first chosen either through convenience sampling (anyone who is accessible to the interviewer) or representative sampling (a random selection of people from a sampled population who accurately reflect the entire make-up of that population). Although representative sampling is the preferred sampling method for HESPER, it is not always a feasible option (especially in emergency contexts), in which case, convenience sampling is appropriate. Once a sampling method and sample size are decided upon, respondents can be recruited and interviewed. The 26 “need” items are read by the interviewer and answered by the respondent with the following rating options: Serious Problem (1)—identified as a serious problem by the respondent; No Serious Problem (0)–not identified as a serious problem by the respondent; or No Answer (9)—no answer provided, answer declined, not applicable, etc. After answering the 26 items, a respondent is then asked to list his/her three most serious perceived needs, as well as identify any other perceived needs not covered in the 26 items. Use of the tool does not require extensive training, as much of the general information can be learned through reading its user’s manual; however, it is important that interviewers have a few days of formal training and, at a minimum, have 12 years of education, familiarity with the local culture and context, and comfort interacting with diverse groups of people. Although children are not directly included in interviews (HESPAR respondents should be at least 18 years old), adult respondents can provide valuable information about children living in their homes or communities. The tool allows for considerable flexibility and adaptations to local and cultural contexts, and requires about 15-30 minutes (per interview) to administer.

Related Publications

Manzoor, A. (2012). The Humanitarian Emergency Settings Perceived Needs Scale (HESPER). International Review of Public Administration, 17(2), 171-173.

What it measures



World Health Organization


Individuals 18 years and older



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