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Statistics Without Borders Assists with Haitian Data Collection Project

13 May 2010 3,244 views One Comment

Camp Officials and SWB volunteers visit a Salvation Army camp near Place-du-Pais to conduct interviews with families about household composition and cell phone usage


James J. Cochran, Project Director, Statistics Without Borders


Since early February, a team of Statistics Without Borders (SWB) volunteers has been advising representatives of SciMetrika, LLC (an 8(a) firm that focuses on providing solutions to advancing human health) on the design and execution of a survey in Haiti. Data collected will be used to assess the impact of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake of January 12.

Left to right: Haitian statistics professor Robert Philipe and data collector Riccardo Bonjean Yves meet with Statistics Without Borders (SWB) volunteers Fritz Scheuren and Justin Fisher in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The epicenter of this earthquake was near the town of Léogâne, only 16 miles west-southwest of the Haitian capital and population center of Port-au-Prince. Thousands of people died, and homes, businesses, government buildings, and national landmarks throughout the region collapsed or suffered structural damage, resulting in the displacement of millions of survivors.

In the aftermath of any natural disaster, it is critical to develop reliable estimates of the extent of damage to homes and displacement of people as well as the nature of the displacements (temporary or permanent, current living conditions of the displaced, and so on). It is on these issues that SciMetrika and SWB are focusing.

Three SWB volunteers—Jim Ashley, Justin Fisher, and Fritz Scheuren—spent a week in Haiti in late March working with SciMetrika’s president and CEO, Jean Orelien. There were five purposes for this trip:

  • To work with local Haitian authorities and professors of statistics to assess the situation and the potential difficulties to data collection
  • To work with the SWB project director, Jim Cochran, and other SWB volunteers to design a questionnaire and plan for executing the study
  • To assist with cognitive testing, field testing, translation, and back-translation of the questionnaire and instructions for data collectors and their supervisors
  • To advise on revising the questionnaire and data collection plan based on what is learned from the pilot testing
  • To design a random digit dialing sample of phone numbers

While the original geographic focus of this study was Port-au-Prince and suburbs such as Carrefour and Petion-Ville, the work of Orelien and the SWB team has led SciMetrika to consider expanding the project to the national level.

A telephone charging station outside Port-au-Prince

The project has progressed quickly. By all accounts the assistance provided by SWB has been invaluable, and the data collected through this effort promises to be of great utility to humanitarian organizations in their efforts to identify needs and provide aid to the victims of this earthquake. In addition, SWB volunteers are gaining critical experience and learning important lessons about project management and execution under extreme conditions. SWB also hopes this project will lead to the establishment of a long-term relationship with the Haitian academic community.

SWB is an apolitical organization under the auspices of the American Statistical Association, comprised entirely of volunteers. It provides pro bono statistical consulting and assistance to organizations and government agencies in support of these organizations’ not-for-profit efforts to deal with international health issues as broadly defined. The organization’s vision is to achieve better statistical practice, including statistical analysis and design of experiments and surveys, so that international health projects and initiatives are delivered more effectively and efficiently.

For more information about SWB or to offer project suggestions, contact either SWB co-chair: Jim Cochran at jcochran@cab.latech.edu, (318) 257-3445, or Gary Shapiro at g.shapiro4@verizon.net.

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One Comment »

  • Quito said:

    I know a few organizers involved with the earthquake in Mexicali through my ESL class. An interesting project.