The health and safety of all respondents and survey staff at country level, regional and global consultants, and UNICEF staff members is the top priority of the MICS programme, not only during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but as a general guiding principle.
As government recommendations to contain the spread of COVID-19, including mobility restrictions, are being introduced across the globe, the Global MICS Programme strongly recommends the temporary suspension of any survey activity that requires: (a) Interaction of survey staff with the general population, (b) travel across borders or within countries, or (c) face-to-face meetings involving groups of people, in order to minimize risks for survey teams and respondents. Examples include:
- Fieldwork and other activities (including listing and questionnaire pre-testing) that involve face-to-face interactions between survey staff and households.
- Any MICS-related activities that require National Statistical Office staff members, UNICEF staff members and consultants to travel within countries.
- Technical support missions that involve international travel of global and regional MICS consultants and UNICEF staff members.
- Training activities, workshops and technical meetings.
- Public events, such as to launch survey findings.
The temporary suspension of these activities will ensure the safety of survey teams and contribute to the containment of the spread of COVID-19. These activities should only resume when it is determined by relevant local authorities and the Global MICS programme that it is absolutely safe to do so.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, it is critical to continue to make progress on non-field survey activities, where feasible. Some of the activities listed above, such as workshops, technical meetings and public events may be carried out on an online basis.
Survey managers are encouraged to identify which survey activities can be carried out effectively through virtual interaction (emails, calls, and meetings on Skype, Zoom and similar platforms) between local survey team members, international consultants and UNICEF staff members, and to continue to implement these activities. Examples include:
- For surveys at the planning and design stages, efforts may focus on questionnaire customization and sample design discussions, reviews and finalization, using the above-mentioned means of communication.
- For any survey where fieldwork, pre-testing or listing is still ongoing, pressure to continue or accelerate such activities should be avoided to minimize adverse effects on data quality. Accelerated completion of these activities after the circumstances normalize should also be of concern.
- For surveys where fieldwork has been stopped, a detailed assessment should be carried out to assess the proportion of clusters covered, the distribution of pending clusters, and the completion rate among completed clusters, to look at the possibility of concluding fieldwork and moving on to post-fieldwork activities. For surveys where fieldwork has covered a less-than-sufficient number of clusters or is seriously biased due to the nature of the clusters that have not been covered, the remainder of the fieldwork should be planned to resume when circumstances normalize. However, another assessment will need to be carried out at that time in order to review the validity of household listing and the impact on indicators, such as those prone to seasonal fluctuations or those relating to educational attendance.
- For surveys with completed fieldwork, efforts should focus on data processing work and preparation of datasets, finalization of tabulations, review of survey findings, and preparations for virtual meetings and workshops for the finalization of the Survey Findings Report and Statistical Snapshots.
The Global MICS Programme team and experts will continue to provide online support and concrete guidance to survey teams on a case-by-case basis. All survey teams are encouraged to communicate regularly with Regional MICS Coordinators to share updates on their country situation, assess the implications of the current situation on their surveys, plan required adjustments to survey operations and overall planning, identify technical assistance needs, and develop a contingency plan for the way forward.