The unsung heroes behind Zimbabwe’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 6) statistics 2019

As Zimbabwe launches MICS 6 results, enumerators recall the tough road to collecting data

Farai Matsika
UNICEF Zimbabwe/2019/Rumbidzai Tizora

15 December 2019

Harare, Zimbabwe - Maxwell Majiri is one of the many unsung heroes who has been trudging through rough and treacherous terrain to collect data for Zimbabwe’s latest Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS).

He is one of dozens of enumerators whose dedication, endurance, patience and team spirit led to the success of the latest MICS data collection in the field.

Since its inception in 1995, MICS has become the largest source of statistically sound and internationally comparable data on women and children worldwide.

The last MICS survey in Zimbabwe was conducted in 2014. For MICS 2019, UNICEF Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, ZIMSTAT, conducted fieldwork from January to April 2019 to collect data on key indicators on the well-being of children and women, and helping shape policies for the improvement of their lives. In addition, the collected data will go a long way in monitoring and evaluation of development interventions that Government and Development partners are undertaking. 

However, behind the informative statistics are women and men who, for three to four months left the comfort of their homes and in some instances risked their lives to collect the necessary data.

In rural areas, where households are spaced far apart, enumerators walked distances of up to 8 kilometres, often with no clue when they would reach the next household.

This meant waking up at dawn every morning to boil water for bathing and preparing breakfast in grass thatched huts, classrooms, clinics or halls before trekking through rivers, mountains, valleys and forests to seek out interviewees who live in hard to reach places.

“You would just walk and walk hoping that you are in the correct direction. You could actually disappear and no one would know what happened to you,” said Lizy Nyika, an enumerator.

Due to the terrain and long walking distances, keeping up pace with others proved difficult for some enumerators and pointing out directions became creative.

Lizy Nyika said in her team, those who could not keep up would frequently shout and those in front would shout back to keep track of each other.

Others were more innovative.

“We would write the word MICS on the ground and put an arrow showing where we would have gone for the other team members to follow,” said one enumerator. In some cases, those ahead would tie pieces of cloth or plastics on trees to mark the way.

We would write the word MICS on the ground and put an arrow showing where we would have gone for the other team members to follow

The harsh extreme weather conditions did not spare the enumerators.

The fieldwork coincided with Cyclone Idai, that killed hundreds and left a trail of infrastructural destruction. One of the enumerators recalled an instance where in the middle of an interview the hut collapsed from the heavy rains.

Many remote areas were inaccessible by car and using bayonets to cut bushes and create “a road” became a necessary skill for some.

Benjamin Mupfuri one of the drivers recalled the conversations he had with team members when the going got tough in Mberengwa, Midlands Province.

 “The terrain was bad and the households were far apart. In some cases I would drop the enumerators at 8am and they would come back around 4pm,” said Mupfuri.

In the end, there were some good takeaways. Many enumerators described the exercise as a learning curve and said they gained invaluable information and skills, thanks to supervision from, MICS Technical committee members, UNICEF Zimbabwe and ZIMSTAT National supervisors, who also ensured that the data was of reliable quality despite the odds faced by enumerators.

UNICEF Zimbabwe/2018/Rumbidzai Tizora
An enumerator administering a Foundational Learning Skills Module in the 5-17 year old questionnaire interview in Bulawayo urban during Main training fieldwork practice in December 2018.

 “It was difficult,” said Mathimise Hlekani, a Team leader for one of the teams, adding, “But we had to be strong because that is the job.”