16 Sep

Ngonelewa! We are together!

Journalist Training in Comoros, June 2014

Journalist Training in Comoros, June 2014

By Mercedes Sayagues

When was the last time you heard about the Comoros islands in the news?

Maybe the Yemenia Air airplane that crashed into the ocean near Moroni, the capital, in 2006?  Or the hijacked Ethiopian Airways plane that crash-landed near its airport in 1996? Or the series of mercenary-led coups in the 1990s?

But in this decade, Comoros has been largely peaceful and peaceful countries don’t generally make the news.

2012 Comoros DHS

2012 Comoros DHS

While the world may have forgotten about the charming Comoros archipelago located north of Madagascar, the country decided it needed to know more about itself, so it commissioned a Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) – its second ever. The first one dates from 1996 – 18 years ago.

Work on the DHS began in 2012 and the final results were presented at a national seminar in Moroni, the capital, in early June 2014.

Comoros National Seminar, June 2014

Comoros National Seminar, June 2014

1996 Comoros DHS

1996 Comoros DHS

Afterwards, I facilitated a two-day training for 17 journalists (print, radio and broadcast) from Ngazidwa, Nzwani and Mwali islands. They were thrilled to have reliable data about their country, their islands, and their communities.

The 2012 survey reveals progress, especially in child health, women’s education and household standards of living.  Remarkably, in some areas, like maternal mortality and gender equality in high school, Comoros ranks higher than other countries in the region. There was lots of good humored clapping among the group when they saw those tables.

Among the good news:

  • In 1996, 52% of women gave birth with assistance of trained health staff. In 2012, this figured had climbed to 82%.
  • Under-five mortality – the likelihood of dying between birth and five years of age – was halved, from 104 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1996 to 50 in 2012.
  • Total fertility, the average number of children per woman, declined from 5.1 in 1996 to 4.3 in 2012.
  • More than 2 in 3 households have electricity, compared to 3 in 10 in 1996.
  • Seven in ten households own a cell phone, 6 in 10 own a TV, and 5 in 10 own a radio.

The downside:

  • The proportion of children fully vaccinated rose from 55% in 1996 to 62% in 2012, but is still too low.
  • Only 14% of married women age 15-49 use a modern method of contraception. On Mwali island, this number drops to 9%.
  • 32% of currently married women have an unmet need for family planning.
  • Nearly 4 in 10 women and less than 2 in 10 men agree that wife beating is justified for certain reasons.
  • Only about 3 in 10 households use improved (and not shared) toilets.

On the second day of the training, journalists prepared stories for June 16, The Day of the African Child. Working in groups, they selected topics to explore, which included child vaccination, malnutrition, education, and infant mortality.

The group was lively, participative, and showed a sparkling sense of humor. I taught them one very useful word in Shangaan (an African language from Southern Mozambique) and they taught me the equivalent in Comorian. These became our training key words: Hakumana! Ngonelewa! Ok, we are together!

Mercedes Sayagues is a journalist, editor, media trainer, former Knight Health Fellow in Mozambique and a consultant for The DHS Program. Born in Uruguay, she has lived in Africa for 22 years and is based in Pretoria, South Africa. She speaks Spanish, English, Portuguese, French, Italian and some Shangaan.

09 Sep

Spotlight on Implementing Agencies: Niger

In September 2013, The DHS Program welcomed visitors from Niger. This is the fifth in a series of interviews with visitors to DHS headquarters. Don’t read French? You can use the translate feature at the top of the page!



Pays d’origine:



Institut National de la Statistique  (INS) et Coordination Intersectorielle de Lutte contre les IST/VIH/SIDA

Quand vous ne travaillez pas, quel est l’endroit  où vous préférez aller: 

NOMAOU : Les magasins et les restaurants à côté de notre hôtel.

HASSANE : Magasins, Centres historiques (Washington)

La première fois que vous avez travaillée sur des données du “The DHS Program:

MODIELI J’ai eu à faire plusieurs études approfondies à partir des données de DHS ; j’ai surtout travaillé avec DHS 2006 sur mon mémoire de démographie.

Qu’est-ce qui vous a le plus agréablement surpris lors de votre séjour au programme DHS? 

NOMAOU: Le fait qui m’a le plus surpris est l’organisation du travail pour finaliser le rapport et les différents documents (Affiche, Note de synthèse, le dépliant)

OUMAROU: Une bonne organisation de travail, chacun sait ce qu’il doit faire.

Qu’est-ce qui vous manque le plus quand vous êtes ici?
OUMAROU & HASSANE: Ma famille.

JOHOA: La convivialité familiale

2012 Burundi MIS

2012 Burundi MIS

Quelle est la plus grande différence entre le bureau du “The DHS Program” et votre bureau dans votre pays?

NOMAOU: Ce n’est pas à comparer. ICF International est une grande entreprise alors l’INS Niger est une structure de l’Etat.

JOHOA: Le calme, café et amuse-gueule pour tout le monde.

Quelle est votre page de couverture préférée?  

MODIELI: J’ai pas pu prendre connaissance des pages de couverture de tous les pays, mais parmi celle que j’ai consultées celle du Burundi me parait bien.

2012 NIger DHS

2012 NIger DHS

HASSANE: Celle que nous avons choisie pour le Niger

Quel est votre chapitre ou indicateur préféré, et pourquoi?

NOMAOU: Mon chapitre préféré est celui  relatif à la nutrition des enfants de moins de cinq ans parce que la malnutrition est l’une des causes de mortalité infantile.

OUMAROU: Le chapitre sur la mortalité des enfants de moins de cinq ans parce qu’à partir de ce chapitre, on voit les progrès accomplis par notre pays en matière de santé des enfants.

JOHOA: Santé de l’enfant, si enfant malade rien ne va.

Quel est le problème de population ou de santé qui vous intéresse le plus, et pourquoi?

MODIELI: Le paludisme car c’est la première cause de morbidité chez les enfants de moins de 5 ans au Niger.

OUMAROU: C’est le niveau de fécondité des femmes qui est stagnent depuis la première EDSN1992. Il va falloir mener une étude sur les déterminants de cette fécondité, mais aussi sur la baisse de la mortalité des enfants de moins de cinq ans qui sont d’ailleurs deux phénomènes liés.

HASSANE: Planification familiale, VIH/SIDA, Accouchement en milieu hospitalier, amélioration de la couverture sanitaire

Comment espérez-vous que les données de l’EDS sur votre pays seront utilisées ?

OUMAROU :  J’espère qu’elles vont être utilisées par ceux qui devraient le faire à savoir le pouvoir public, la société civile, les étudiants et chercheurs ainsi que les journalistes qui auront la tâche de bien expliquer le niveau des principaux indicateurs.

JOHOA : Les données de DHS seront utilisées par les autorités administratives, les organismes internationaux, les ONGs, les étudiants …(biens préssés d’avoir les résultats définitifs).

HASSANE : Les responsables des différents programmes vont faire une analyse de la situation (voir le niveau des indicateurs, dégager des priorités et programmer des actions puis chercher des financements auprès des partenaires.)

Qu’avez–vous appris en travaillant avec “The DHS Program“?

MODIELI : La maîtrise de la structure des questionnaires, et surtout la familiarisation avec les variables utilisées.

NOMAOU : Travailler avec ICF international permet de mettre en place une bonne organisation du travail sur le terrain et surtout de collecter des bonnes informations ce qui conduira au calcul des indicateurs de qualité.

OUMAROU : Beaucoup de choses. En tant que Directeur Technique pendant l’EDSN-MICS 2006 et l’EDSN-MICS 2012, j’ai appris la rigueur qui entoure le processus de réalisation de cette enquête, de l’échantillonnage jusqu’à la dissémination des résultats. C’est une bonne expérience dans la carrière d’un statisticien démographe.

02 Sep

Spotlight on New Staff: Katie Judd

This is the fourth in a series of posts introducing readers to new staff at The DHS Program

Katie Judd

Katie Judd

Name: Katie Judd

Position title:  Social Media Specialist, i.e. the person behind DHS profiles on Twitter, Facebook, and this blog!

Languages spoken: English, Portuguese, and Spanish.

When not working, favorite place to visit:  I love South America! I would like to go back to Brazil and I would love to explore more in Argentina and Chile. I finished high school in Maine, and I think that’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, so I love going back there, too.

Favorite type of cuisine: If you have to twist my arm, I’ll probably pick something Latin American – Brazilian, Peruvian, Mexican. But I love all types of cuisine, so it’d be a tough choice!

Last good book you read: The Inner Game of Tennis, by W. Timothy Gallwey. It sounds oddball…and I actually don’t play tennis…but it’s all about the mental side of sports and it’s actually a really interesting read! Also on my bookshelf: Embedded Autonomy and Dependent Development by Peter Evans and Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright.

Where would we find you on a Saturday?  Playing ultimate frisbee, biking around DC, or hiking in a nearby park!

First time you worked with DHS survey data: February 2014

What is on your desk (or bulletin board/wall) right now?  The DHS Dissemination Team guide to style, 3 infographics on Women’s Lives and Challenges, a Photoshare calendar, and a DHS World Cup bracket.

2011 Nepal DHS Final Report

2011 Nepal DHS Final Report

What is your favorite survey final report cover?  Nepal 2011. It’s such a gorgeous photo!

Favorite chapter or indicator, and why?  Women’s Empowerment. I have always been most drawn to this topic. Women have come a long way in the struggle for gender equality, but there’s still a long way to go.

What’s your favorite way to access The DHS Program’s data?  I’m a big fan of the Mobile App and STATcompiler, but sometimes I prefer the hard copy of a report to take notes or just for ease of reading.

What population or health issue are you most passionate about?  Why?  Women and girls’ education and empowerment and gender-based violence. This is something that’s close to my heart and that I’ve long been passionate about.

What are you most looking forward to about your new position?  I’m looking forward to developing messages and visuals for DHS social media channels, getting to know our partners and data users on Twitter and Facebook, and exploring more creative ways to present DHS data by creating infographics like this one.

What has been your biggest surprise so far?  I’ve been impressed by how willing people are to talk to you about their specialty or area of expertise. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the DHS tradition of colleagues bringing back tasty chocolates after they’ve been on a long trip abroad! I’m amazed at some of the stories colleagues have to tell about their experiences in the field (I’m working on getting them to write those experiences up for this blog…)

What do you look forward to bringing to The DHS Program (job-related or not!)? I’m excited to bring my knowledge of and enthusiasm for online communications & digital media to the team. I am also looking forward to making more serious forays into using social media in other languages (specifically Portuguese and Spanish).

19 Aug

DHS eLearning Course Updated

Credit: Joanna Lowell, The DHS Program.

Credit: Joanna Lowell, The DHS Program.

How much can change in 4 years? I asked myself as I prepared to update the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS): Data Use eLearning course.  I thought I’d spend a day or two updating the links to reflect our new project name and websites, add a quick page on our new web tools and push out a new course in no time.  But once I started reviewing the four-year-old content, my document of revisions reached 15 pages.  How had this happened?  The DHS Program is known for its standard methodologies and consistency over time. How could the introductory two hour course on the DHS need such an overhaul after only four years?

The DHS: Data Use course provides an overview of the Demographic and Health Surveys. It covers many different topics such as:

  • Basics of survey design and implementation
  • The demographic and health statistics
  • Practice reading DHS tables
  • Protocol and implications of testing for HIV in a population-based survey
  • Tips for communication
  • Using DHS data for programs and policy making

And while most of this information hasn’t changed conceptually, shifting data needs and improving technology have changed the way we do surveys.

New topics and data needs: Five years ago, most DHS surveys focused on malnutrition as stunting and wasting.  Now, in many countries, our focus is on overnutrition.  Five years ago, we were talking about how to measure trends in HIV prevalence.  Now we are moving towards measuring HIV incidence, and even viral load.  Five years ago, many countries were concerned with reporting MDG data.  Now we work with partners to identify the next set of indicators that will track global progress towards health and development.

New technology.  Five years ago, a few countries had experimented with computer-assisted interviewing in DHS surveys.  This has now become the norm, with some countries even editing data in the field and transferring files electronically for immediate quality checks.  Technology has also changed the way we communicate DHS data and support data use. The DHS Program Mobile App, User Forum, and many social media platforms did not exist when the course was first developed in 2010.   The STATcompiler and Spatial Data Repository provide data visualization tools that go far beyond basic data tables, helping people see patterns in data and encouraging use by less technical audiences.

New project. Five years ago, we were MEASURE DHS.  In October 2013, MEASURE DHS became The DHS Program. With the new DHS project came new partners and a new priority area: capacity strengthening.  The updated eLearning course describes how DHS incorporates capacity strengthening into every stage of the survey and how we are working with countries to foster country ownership of DHS data.

I can’t wait to see where the next five years takes us, as a global community.  The DHS Program will be standing at the ready, eager to provide data to track our progress and our challenges, and prepared to try new techniques, ask new questions, and integrate new technology.   I look forward to updating the elearning course in another several years.  I’m sure I can’t even begin to imagine what some of those pages might look like.

For more information or to take the course, visit Demographic and Health Surveys: Data Use eLearning course.

As of June 2014, more than 5,900 learners had completed the DHS: Data Use course from 132 countries. 

12 Aug

The New DHS Program API: What Non-Developers Should Know

Don’t let the technical acronym scare you! While application developers and computer programmers are usually the direct users of APIs, the DHS API is a great tool for program managers and researchers.

What is an API?

An Application Programming Interface, or API, provides software developers with direct access to a database.  Developers can use the data in the database to populate websites and applications.  These applications can include data visualizations, tabular data for dissemination of information to specific stakeholders, or analysis.

How can the DHS API be used?

The DHS API connects users directly to the STATcompiler database of aggregated indicators.  That is, total fertility rates, mortality rates, and all of the almost 1500 indicators found in the STATcompiler for 90 countries over 30 years.   A developer at a maternal health project could select the maternal health indicators from a sub-sample of countries to populate a web page on key DHS data for the areas in which the project works.   Or a mobile app developer could use the DHS API to link STATcompiler data with other global health data and create a global development data visualization tool.

The API can also be used by analysts, as data can be returned in Stata-readable format, allowing for instant integration of indicator-level data into your Stata analysis.  The API website has a simple Stata Example page. It is also possible to open aggregated indicator data directly in Excel through the API, using the CSV format output.

We at The DHS Program will be using the Indicator Data API to populate statistics on our own website and our own mobile app, but we look forward to seeing other creative uses of DHS data.

How does the DHS API work?

The basic workings of the API are very simple, even for a non-developer.  A single URL contains all the information the database needs to return data.  For example, try copying the following URL into your browser:


This URL contains all the information the API needs to create a table about a given indicator (in this case Indicator ID – 20171000, which is total fertility rate) and three countries: Burkina Faso (BF), Burundi (BU), and Cameroon (CM).  The resulting web page gives us exactly that:  the Total Fertility rate for the three selected countries as well as some additional information about those surveys.    Don’t have time to search the documentation for country and indicator codes? The query builder allows users to select indicators and countries of interest, preview the output, and obtain the specific API call, that is, the URL needed to request those specific indicators and countries.  If you want a full list of the indicators, try this link.

What are the advantages to using an API?

Connecting to DHS data through the API ensures that you have up-to-date data, even as new countries and indicators are added or data are adjusted.   And while we think STATcompiler and DHS Mobile app are great, they aren’t customized to YOUR work.   The API will allow you to build interactive tools to showcase the data for the countries and areas you work in.

How do I start?

Visit http://api.dhsprogram.com/ for sample data calls, code samples, and all of the survey, country, and indicator documentation needed to communicate with the DHS API.  If you register to be an official DHS API partner you will receive an API key, allowing you a larger number of entries returned per page.  We may also be able to provide assistance in application development, promotion of the apps created by your team, and ongoing communication, allowing your feedback to influence future API development.

Details for developers:

The DHS API uses both a RESTful interface as well as a query-based interface. The API supports JSON, XML, HTML and CSV output formats. For more details, visit the DHS API website or follow our Twitter (@DHSprogramAPI).

06 Aug

Spotlight on Implementing Agencies: Mali

Malian visitors at DHS Headquarters

Malian visitors at DHS Headquarters

In May 2014, The DHS Program welcomed visitors from Mali. This is the fourth in a series of interviews with visitors to DHS headquarters. Don’t read French? You can use the translate feature at the top of the page!

Nom :

Traoré SEYDOU, Institut National de la Statistique

Keita SAMBA, Chef unité statistique, Ministère santé hygiène publique

Sidibe SIDI, Directeur adjoint cellule de la planification et de statistique secteur santé

Zima DIALLO, Chef de département de la recherche de la normalisation et des enquêtes statistiques, INSTAT

Pays d’origine :


Quand vous ne travaillez pas, quel est l’endroit  où vous préférez aller :

SAMBA : Promenade

SIDI : visiter la ville de Washington

DIALLO: Hôtel, supermarché, balade de parc

Chez vous, où a-t-on le plus de chances de vous trouver le samedi ?

SIDI :Au service pour finaliser les dossiers

DIALLO : Au bureau (samedi), église et maison (dimanche)

Qu’est-ce qui vous a le plus agréablement surpris lors de votre séjour au programme DHS ?

SEYDOU : L’organisation et la répartition des tâches au niveau d’ICF

SAMBA : Répartition des tâches et assiduité du personnel

Qu’est-ce qui vous manque le plus quand vous êtes ici ?

SIDI : Ma famille

Quelle est la plus grande différence entre le bureau du programme DHS et votre bureau dans votre pays ?

SIDI : Organisation du travail

DIALLO : La spécialisation de chaque cadre dans son domaine et la disponibilité y afférente.

2012-2013 Mali DHS Final Report

2012-2013 Mali DHS Final Report

Quelle est votre  page de couverture préférée ?

SAMBA : Celle adoptée par notre pays

SIDI : Couverture avec la tête de gazelle qui représente l’excellence

Quel est votre chapitre ou indicateur préféré, et pourquoi ? 

DIALLO : Allaitement, état nutritionnel et disponibilité alimentaire

Quel est le problème de population ou de santé qui vous

2006 Mali DHS Final Report

2006 Mali DHS Final Report

intéresse le plus, et pourquoi ?

SEYDOU : Mortalité des enfants puisque un problème de population sérieux au Mali

SAMBA : La pauvreté monétaire et les soins de santé

Comment espérez-vous que les données de l’EDS sur votre pays seront utilisées ?

SAMBA : Pour la mise en œuvre des politiques de santé et de précision dans les efforts à faire et les résultats à atteindre

DIALLO : Suivi et meilleur exécution des programmes de santé publique.

Qu’avez–vous appris en travaillant avec le programme DHS ?

SAMBA: Le respect du délai et le sérieux dans l’accomplissement de la tâche.

SIDI : Comment bien finaliser un rapport

08 Jul

DHS Data: More than Demographic and Health Indicators

Telephone lines in an alley in Koloba village, Minya province, Egypt.   © 2008 Catherine Harbour, Courtesy of Photoshare

Cables stretch across an alley in Koloba village, Minya province, Egypt.             © 2008 Catherine Harbour, Courtesy of Photoshare

In 2006, I was working as a sampling statistician at the Public Opinion Poll Center (POPC) in Egypt where I met Dr. Sahar El-Tawila.  I discovered that she had used 2005 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey data in a nontraditional way: to explore the differences between households that owned landline phones and households that did not. At the time, most survey work in Egypt was done via landline phone surveys, and she had highlighted a serious non-coverage problem: many households in Egypt did not have a landline and were therefore not being reached.

2005 Egypt DHS

2005 Egypt DHS

Exploring the differences between the landline and non-landline households with DHS data was crucial to guiding telephone survey methodology both at POPC and more generally in Egypt. Our conversations about the way she used the data so inspired me that I changed my master’s degree thesis topic so that I could further extend her research, under her supervision.

In our research, based on the 2005 DHS data, when about 56% of households had a landline telephone, individuals in non-landline households tended to live in rural areas and to be less educated and poorer than individuals in landline households. This meant that using landline telephone surveys as a sole interviewing tool was very risky, since it would not cover a significant portion of the population with varied characteristics (see Figure 1).

Landline & non-landline households in Egypt.

Figure 1

Although we were able to partially adjust for the non-coverage problem with a limited post-stratification technique using DHS data, our recommendations included moving to dual-frame designs, in which data are collected through landline phones and cell phones. Although this recommendation seemed complicated–especially for a country still in early days of conducting telephone surveys—it was well received.  Starting in 2013, some of the more adventurous public opinion centers, such as Baseera, decided to take the lead and conduct dual-frame surveys, paving the way for telephone surveys that now cover most of the Egyptian population.

Although published information about landline coverage in Egypt existed, without the DHS it would have been impossible to explore the characteristics of the populations covered and not covered by landline phones–and to evaluate this “non-coverage” problem. We also used the DHS to identify the coverage covariates to be able to adjust for the problem. Even in order to design the dual-frame survey, the DHS was needed to determine the allocation between the two samples and to adjust the sampling weights. Since the last DHS conducted in Egypt was in 2008, survey practitioners eagerly await the 2014 Egypt DHS data.

As a rich dataset, the DHS is used as a source for many population demographic estimates. These estimates can be used to guide survey practices and to adjust survey estimates. Even before I joined The DHS Program, I dealt with the DHS as a data user and I realized how this survey is important not only for its explicit objectives, but also for other purposes, ones we may not even recognize–but we know users continue to find innovative ways to use DHS data. Have you ever used DHS data in a cross-disciplinary setting? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The information provided on this Web site is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

The DHS Program, ICF International
530 Gaither Road, Suite 500, Rockville, MD 20850
Tel: +1 (301) 407-6500 • Fax: +1 (301) 407-6501