|Participants gather at a Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey workshop organized by UNICEF's Regional Office for West and Central Africa to support data-gathering in the region.|
NEW YORK, USA, 23 September 2010 – Data-gathering for the fourth round of Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) is currently in high gear in many of the 40 countries, and more, participating in MICS4.
Developed by UNICEF in the 1990s to help countries produce statistically sound, internationally comparable data across a range of indicators – including health, education, child protection and HIV/AIDS – MICS has come to generate one of the world’s largest sources of statistical information on children and women. To date, more than 200 surveys have been implemented in nearly 100 countries.
Globally, the MICS surveys “evolved from being a relatively simple tool for monitoring progress toward the World Summit for Children goals and targets to becoming one of the most important sources of data for tracking progress toward the Millennium Development Goals – as well as other major international commitments for improving the lives of women and children worldwide," explained UNICEF’s Chief of Statistics and Monitoring and Associate Director of the Division of Policy and Practice, Tessa Wardlaw.
Field work under way
Countries participating in MICS can customize the instruments developed by UNICEF’s MICS team to fit their own data needs. These instruments range from a series of questionnaires and several thematic modules to report cover templates. Under MICS4, new modules have been added on themes ranging from life satisfaction, tobacco and alcohol use and access to mass media, to use of information and communication technologies and post-natal health checks. These modules were prepared by UNICEF in close collaboration with other agencies and technical experts.
Field work has already started, or is scheduled to start soon, in about 25 of the MICS4 surveys. Thanks to increased funding, renewed emphasis on governance, improved approaches to the way data are collected and strengthened technical assistance at the national and regional levels, the quality of the data sets has been enhanced. Early height and weight measurements now show clear signs of improvement, and results are to become available sooner after completion of data collection than in previous MICS rounds.
Collecting data against all odds
MICS data are collected during face-to-face interviews in nationally representative samples of households. As news from the field starts trickling in, it is clear that gathering data on the ground can often be a complex exercise.
In Bhutan, which is conducting a MICS for the first time, surveyors had to hike through hailstorms and snowfall to reach the remote village of Laya, located at a staggering 3,800 metres above sea level. “The expectation from the survey is high,” explained UNICEF’s local MICS Coordinator. A key reason for Bhutan to join MICS was that it would contribute to a “healthy and happy environment” for its children.
In the Central African Republic (CAR), after years of conflict that have taken a heavy toll – destroying most of the infrastructure and cutting access to basic services – observations on the ground spoke of torrential downpours making the survey teams’ journey treacherous. Reliable data is hard to come by in CAR following a decade of civil unrest and fallout from conflicts affecting its neighbours. Data collection was particularly difficult in parts of the north, where large numbers of the population have been displaced by bandit and rebel attacks. Yet field workers have witnessed and worked through some of these difficulties in the past; CAR is now implementing its third consecutive MICS.
Teams show professionalism
Suriname also faces great social and geographic disparities. However, recent notes from the field indicate that the MICS4 teams are upbeat and happy to work. During a regular field visit aimed at assessing how the work advances on the ground, UNICEF’s Regional Monitoring Specialist and Regional MICS Coordinator in Latin America and the Caribbean observed: “They show a great deal of professionalism in dealing with respondents. Teams communicate well, call each other in the field on mobile phones to ask for help and equipment for the anthropometry, and make field work smoother and faster.” The Suriname MICS4 will cover 9,000 households, reaching over 22,000 women and children by the end of this month.
Results from MICS4 surveys carried out during the 2009-2011 timeframe will soon become available in a few countries, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Argentina, on the other hand, has just recently confirmed its first-ever participation into MICS as a way to monitor the goals established in the country’s Action Plan for Children and Adolescents, and to gain information about disparities affecting its children.
Helping to achieve the MDGs with equity
As UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake recently declared, “compelling data suggest that in the global push to achieve the MDGs, we are leaving behind millions of the world’s most disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalized children: the children who are facing the longest odds.” MICS is well positioned to shed the light on these children. Information on more than 20 of the MDG indicators will be collected through MICS4 alone. MICS provides data at the national level which can be disaggregated by various geographic, social and demographic characteristics.
To learn more, watch ‘This is MICS’ and ‘The MICS Process’, two short films that explore the origins of MICS that describe how data are collected, highlight the critical role played by national governments and address the type of support UNICEF provides. The films are available here. The list of MICS4 confirmed countries can be found here.