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Earthquake Damage Assessment in Nepal—the Central Bureau of Statistics’ Experience with CAPI

The 2015 April and May earthquakes in Nepal posed significant challenges to all agencies responding to the disaster. At the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), this translated to having to survey over 10,000 households in 17 earthquake affected districts to assist the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) to determine who the earthquake victims are. This list of earthquake victims is used by the NRA to disburse cash grants primarily for rebuilding/retrofitting houses. By the time the CBS was entrusted with this position, many local assessments had taken place and there was pressure on the NRA to come up with a definitive list of beneficiaries and disburse funds to those affected swiftly.

In order to complete this task quickly, the CBS conducted its first CAPI survey using tablet devices under the leadership of Deputy Director General Rudra Suwal. The survey includes damage assessment of houses and household level demographic questions. The first phase of this assessment began in November 2015 and ended in March 2016 covering 11 of the earthquake affected districts. The second phase covering the Kathmandu valley began in April 2016 and ended in June 2016. The final phase entails random verification and addressing grievances, which began in mid-November and will end by April 2017.

The survey team comprised of 2500 staff in the first phase, 400 in the second phase, and around 500 in the final phase. Each team deployed had two members—an engineer from the Ministry of Urban and Housing Department and a Social Mobilizer already working at the local level. Engineers had to be part of the team as the level of housing damage had to be determined in the process of creating the beneficiary list.  This meant that in addition to using CAPI for the first time, CBS was also working with staff with an engineering background for the first time.

Deputy Director-General Suwal organized a five day training for the engineers at the CBS office. This training covered interviewing techniques in addition to guidance on damage assessments. A two-day training for the Social Mobilizers was held at the respective districts. In the field, the engineers wore easily recognizable blue jackets and went with social mobilizers, who are involved in various civic activities in the area.

Nepal Telecom Authority increased the bandwidth to enable timely uploading of the data. Still, staff in more remote areas had to travel back to the district headquarters to upload data due to connectivity issues in the field. A data cleaning team comprised of engineers and statisticians worked in each district to provide clean data to the National Reconstruction Authority.

CBS was also aided by Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL) and the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS) in this endeavor. Kathmandu Living Labs, a startup active in mapping earthquake affected areas to assist aid delivery, programmed and tested the survey into the tablets. UNOPS procured tablets for the assessment on behalf of the CBS, allowing the agency to bypass a lengthy procurement process.

Silwal said that the CBS was able to complete its tasks in a timely manner. The CBS is encouraged by the success of their first CAPI survey are looking to employs such surveys in future large scale government surveys.

Jui Shrestha is a survey research consultant based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Most recently she worked on the third wave of the Asia Foundation’s independent earthquake impacts and recovery monitoring survey.

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