Data for Development

Household Surveys and other Assessments

Assessing the Situation of Women in Gaza

GAZA, Occupied Palestinian Territory– Emergency situations compound the vulnerability of pregnant women, as an assessment of reproductive health services during the recent crisis here revealed.

Surveyed facilities reported a 31 per cent increase in miscarriage cases admitted to maternity ward during the conflict, as well as an increase in obstetric complications. One hospital reported a 50 per cent increase in neonatal death.

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Data collection and analysis, particularly population and housing censuses, yield rich dividends but are complex, lengthy and expensive processes requiring considerable human resources and specialized skills, along with large investments in training and technology. Nevertheless, conducting a population and housing census can be an effective vehicle for building and strengthening statistical systems of developing countries through the momentum it generates in mobilizing and building human resources.

In some cases, however, sample surveys, which are much less expensive than a census, can yield rich information targeted for specific purposes. These sample surveys, undertaken by extensively trained interviewers, can provide more detail and conceptual clarity in many situations.

Thematic data and reliable specific indicators are crucial for formulating national and subnational policies and for measuring progress toward achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Data gaps impede efforts to formulate evidence-based policies and programmes and hinder channelling resources to those most in need. Well-designed and well-executed sample surveys can often produce relevant and useful data to fill in gaps, corroborate other findings and clarify trends and differentials.

DHS surveys

Two key sources of information relevant to UNFPA's work are the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and household and living conditions surveys, which are also primary data sources for poverty analyses. The scope of general household and living conditions surveys may also be expanded to cover demographic or reproductive health information by age, sex and marital status, and some basic information on health expenditures.

These data provide information on the relationship between reproductive health services delivery and poverty reduction strategies, and thus enhance the ability of agencies working in the area of reproductive health to advocate in specific terms. For instance, if the right questions were asked, a basic issue such as the correlation between school enrolment and adolescent pregnancy could be more systematically investigated. In many countries, UNFPA provides part of the budget for the DHS surveys and, to a lesser extent, for other household surveys carried out by national statistical agencies. In the latter case, this often may take the form of sponsoring specific modules in these surveys.

Rapid assessments in emergency situations

Rapid Assessment Provides New Information on Relief and Recovery Needs in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Older people and female heads of household are the two most vulnerable groups affected by the 12 January earthquake in Haiti.

That finding was among the preliminary results of a rapid needs assessment carried out by the IASC (Inter-agency Steering Committee), coordinated by OCHA (the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) together with the Haitian government.

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In emergency situations, when time or costs constrain conventional data collection methods, UNFPA often supports rapid assessments that allow the Fund and its partners to evaluate needs and prioritize responses. Other sources of data, in addition to the population and housing census and household surveys, include vital statistics, but these may be nonexistent or incomplete in some developing countries.

Developed countries also have a wealth of computerized data banks and registry systems that can be used to model demographic and economic trends. But many of the least developed countries lack baseline data and have weak record-keeping systems. That's one reason why there is an international push for all countries to conduct a population and housing census at least every 10 years. Although the census is not a substitute for civil registration and vital statistics systems, it can help provide baseline information.

Despite great improvement in data collection and analysis capacities, some of the socio-economic indicators provided by many countries are not always reliable and updated regularly, or difficult to obtain. These are important obstacles for planners.