From 1999 to 2000, approximately 10 million people were affected by famine in Ethiopia.
Donors and government agencies used the results of nutrition assessments and surveys conducted by humanitarian organizations to determine need for food aid.
In this study, researchers from Ethiopia and the United States identified common methodological errors in nutrition assessments and surveys. They also provided recommendations for improvement.
The team assessed 125 nutrition assessments and surveys conducted by 14 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in 54 districts in Ethiopia between 1999 and 2000.
The researchers ranked the surveys as valid and precise according to 5 criteria:
- Use of population proportional to size sampling
- Sample size
- Number of clusters
- Number of children per clusterUse of weight-for-height index.
The team found that 46% of surveys were not intended to be standard 30 x 30 cluster surveys.
|Few surveys met predetermined criteria for validity and precision.|
|Journal of the American Medical Association|
Of the remaining surveys, only 9% met predetermined criteria for validity and precision. The team found that 81% of these used nonrandom sampling without consideration of population size, while 9% had sample sizes of fewer than 500 persons.
Dr Paul Spiegel and colleagues concluded, "Major methodological errors were identified among 30 x 30 cluster surveys designed to measure acute malnutrition prevalence in Ethiopia during the famine of 1999-2000".
"Donor agencies and NGOs should be educated about the need for improved quality of nutrition assessments and their essential role in directing allocation of scarce food resources".