Like other household survey programmes, planning and implementation of MICS surveys was also adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, 7 MICS surveys were conducting fieldwork, and 20 others were at pre-fieldwork design stages, including a handful that were close to starting fieldwork. Data processing, analysis and report writing was ongoing for 25 surveys.
Fieldwork was halted in all of the 7 surveys mentioned above. National Statistics Offices, with the support of the Global MICS Team, initiated assessments as to the progress of fieldwork until that time, including the distribution of completed clusters. Four of these surveys, where more than 90 percent of fieldwork was already completed, were considered complete; sample weights were calculated, and these surveys moved to data processing and analysis. The percentage of completed clusters was much lower in one survey (Argentina); however, thanks to the way that fieldwork had progressed throughout the country in a balanced way up until then, it was possible to consider Argentina MICS complete, albeit with a lower sample size than initially intended. The remaining two surveys, Malawi and Turks and Caicos Islands, resumed fieldwork in June 2020 and completed the remaining fieldwork soon after.
Progress was made nevertheless
Below is a summary of the progress made in survey implementation (or the lack of it for some surveys), one year after the MICS programme recommended the temporary suspension of face-to-face activities (see news item from March 2020).
In addition to Malawi and Turks & Caicos Islands, National Statistics Offices in 4 countries resumed fieldwork activities, starting at the end of 2020. In Viet Nam, MICS fieldwork started towards the end of 2020 and was completed in February. Fiji, Uzbekistan and Pakistan (Azad Jammu and Kashmir), are currently conducting fieldwork. Several others are about to complete preparations and will commence fieldwork in the coming months. In many countries, however, MICS surveys have been postponed to later during this year, or in at least two cases, postponed to 2022, effectively becoming MICS7 surveys.
Of the 25 surveys that were in the analysis/report writing stages in March 2020, 20 have now been completed, releasing their Survey Findings Reports. Of the 20 surveys that were at design stages, 2 (Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan) have been postponed to 2022 and will be conducted as MICS7 surveys. Four surveys were canceled, due to reasons unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, 3 new countries joined the programme: Federated States of Micronesia, Comoros and Qatar.
In many of the countries, progress has been slow, due to COVID-19 related restrictions. Progress accelerated especially during the last quarter of 2020, and despite challenging circumstance in many of the countries, MICS teams continue to work on completed designs, analyses and reporting of the surveys. However, despite best efforts in countries, further delays in design and implementation are foreseen at this point, which will result moving fieldwork to 2022 in several countries, effectively becoming MICS7 surveys.
In the meantime, the MICS programme has developed safety guidelines for countries conducting MICS, to support them with recommendations on preventing COVID-19 transmission during survey implementation. The document is continuously updated with the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic in different parts of the world, the introduction of vaccines, and in sync with international protocols and recommendations, and is being made available to the countries implementing MICS.