Menu ENN Search

Mortality and nutrition surveys by NGOs

Summary of research1

Between 1980 and 2000, the number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) registered within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) industrialised countries increased from 1600 to over 4000. Nearly half are involved in crisis situations.

A recent paper has explored the strengths and gaps among the surveys conducted by NGOs and other agencies, based on an analysis of the records of the Complex Emergency Database (CE-DAT) held within the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Brussels. This database was created in 2004 in an attempt to collect surveys from complex emergency situations and to make this information available through an internet-based database. The overall objective is to improve the evidence-based policy on conflict prevention and response by providing standardised and comprehensive data on the human impact of conflict.

The surveys compiled by CE-DAT report on mortality, nutrition and vaccination indicators. As of January 1st 2007, the database contained information on 1329 nutrition and/or mortality surveys from 41 different countries conducted between 2000 and November 2006. Most surveys (over 90%) included nutritional indicators and almost two-thirds covered mortality as well.

Overall, two-thirds of the surveys were undertaken by NGOs or in partnership with one. United Nations (UN) agencies were involved in 37%. Only one-fifth involved government bodies. Surveys undertaken by NGOs covered smaller geographical units than those undertaken by UN, government or academic groups. While the UN provides surveys that are nationwide or cover very large regions, NGOs are practically the main source of information at sub-national levels for internally displaced people and affected residents. NGOs have access to insecure areas that, for various reasons, are inaccessible to academics or UN organisations. Data on refugees in camps, on the other hand, are primarily available through the UNHCR Standard Indicator Reporting system, which partly draws from NGO reports and partly from their own civil registration system.

The data selection process in CE-DAT indicates that survey quality and use of standard methodology is more advanced for nutrition information than for mortality or morbidity data. There is consensus on the use of nutritional survey information to confirm the severity of a crisis and on procedures for gathering and analysing anthropometric data. In almost all nutritional surveys, the results are triangulated with morbidity and mortality rates, seasonal fluctuations, pre-emergency levels of malnutrition and the underlying causes of malnutrition.

On the other hand, there is less consensus on the optimal methods for measuring mortality and morbidity in crisis situations and their interpretation for judging the severity of the crisis or identifying the appropriate response. The quality of mortality surveys in conflicts was variable and coverage uneven compared to nutrition surveys. However, there was little difference between the levels of methodological detail in the survey reports of NGOs, UN and academic agencies.

The authors conclude that NGO are the main source of surveys from complex emergency sites and provide information at lower levels of resolution than other sources. NGO surveys also aim at assessing a local situation for needs and programming resources or for monitoring their impact. NGO surveys do, however, suffer from some weaknesses. First, consensus on appropriate thresholds and baselines to estimate excess deaths needs resolution, not just amongst NGOs but all parties involved. It is also suggested that NGO survey reports should strengthen the peer review process. Limited peer review, which is the case for most NGO surveys, affects both quality and credibility of their work. At the same time, the shelf-life of survey findings in emergency situations is extremely short and a significantly rapid peer review mechanism will need to be found so that results are not outdated for any practical decision making.

Show footnotes

1Degomme. O and Guha-Sapir. D (2007). Mortality and nutrition surveys by Non-Governmental organisations. Perspectives from the CE-DAT database. Emerging themes in Epidemiology, vol 4:11 pp 1-5, 2007 Available online at http://www.eteonline.com/content/pdf/1742-7622-4-11.pdf

More like this

FEX: People affected by conflict: humanitarian needs and numbers

Summary of report1 Location: Global What we know: Conflict has humanitarian consequences. What this report adds: Analyses of CRED Complex Emergency Database surveys indicate...

FEX: Short and long-term droughts, food security and child mortality in Ethiopia: Can sub-national surveys tell us more about the success of mitigation efforts?

Summary of presentation1 View this article as a pdf By Tefera Darge Delbiso, Chiara Altare, Jose Manuel Rodriguez-Llanes, Shannon Doocy and Debarati Guha-Sapir Tefera Darge...

FEX: CE-DAT website launched

The new version of the Complex Emergency Database (CE-DAT) website has been launched. It offers an interface that allows users to access CE-DAT data through a map portal and a...

FEX: Nutrition Surveillance in Somalia

By Noreen Prendiville Noreen Prendiville has been involved in health, nutrition and food security programmes in East Africa over the past fifteen years and has a special...

FEX: Towards better documentation of mortality in crises

Summary of research1 A family in an IDP camp in DRC A recently published article identifies the two main functions of mortality data in crises as the support of relief...

FEX: Infant feeding: policies and guidelines

Summary of a review1 In 1993 UNICEF compiled a collection of policy and guideline documents relating to the feeding of infants in emergency situations. In June 2000 Save the...

FEX: Trends in malnutrition prevalence and mortality

The May 2010 issue of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CE-DAT) publication, CE-DAT Scene1 includes a summary of the 2009 trends in malnutrition and...

FEX: Shared experiences of Southern Africa crisis

Malawi 2002, Medical Missionaries of Mary distribute Concern funded maize to most needy in Lilongwe Summary of meeting By Marie McGrath (ENN) On November 5th, 2002 a meeting...

FEX: Taking forward research on adult malnutrition

Summary of ongoing research By Laura Wyness, Researcher, University of Aberdeen, UK Adult malnutrition was initially put on the agenda of the United Nations Standing Committee...

FEX: UN and INGO experiences of coordination in Jordan

By Alex Tyler and Jack Byrne Alex Tyler is Inter-Sector Coordinator for UNHCR Jordan Jack Byrne is Country Director for IRC and Chair of the INGO Forum for Jordan As of July...

FEX: Interpreting mortality data in emergencies

The Humanitarian Practice Network (HPN) have published a network paper on 'interpreting and using mortality data in humanitarian emergencies - a primer for...

FEX: The Emergency Nutrition Coordination Unit of Ethiopia roles, responsibilities and achievements

By Isaack B. Manyama, Gugsa Abate and Mathewos Tamiru Isaack B. Manyama is ENCU Team Leader and Nutrition Cluster Coordinator for Ethiopia Gugsa Abate is Nutrition Specialist...

FEX: Management of acute malnutrition in Niger: a countrywide programme

By Dr Guero H Doudou Maimouna, Dr Yami Chegou and Prof Ategbo Eric-Alain Dr Guero H Doudou Maimouna is a Paediatrician and holds a PhD in Public Health. She has over 15 years...

FEX: International Emergency and Refugee Health Branch in CDC

Name International Emergency and Refugee Health Branch (IERHB), CDC Address 4770 Buford Highway, Atlanta, Georgia...

FEX: Priority indicators in humanitarian emergencies

Summary of reports1 As part of establishing its role in supporting the humanitarian community and national governments, the Health and Nutrition Tracking System (HNTS) hired a...

FEX: Review of nutrition and mortality indicators for Integrated Phase Classification

Summary of technical review1 The Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) Technical Working Group and the Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) Task Force on Assessment,...

FEX: Review of indicators to assess Infant Feeding in Emergencies

Summary of research1 Population movements in an emergency challenge needs assessments - including infant and young child feeding practices © ANDY SEAL The public health...

en-net: MUAC out...

Hello, I am looking for documentation or national protocol adopting the outside criteria above than 125 if the other constants are reached. I read a lot of discussion on this...

FEX: Assessment of adult malnutrition

Assessment of Adult Malnutrition was the subject of a special meeting held during the SCN's 28th session in Nairobi in April 20011. The aim of the meeting was to reach a...

FEX: Nutrition assessments in Zimbabwe: a local perspective

By George Kararach For the past two years, George Kararach has worked as a consultant policy analyst in Zimbabwe - for the last year working with UNICEF Zimbabwe. The support...

Close

Reference this page

Mortality and nutrition surveys by NGOs. Field Exchange 32, January 2008. p6. www.ennonline.net/fex/32/mortality