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The next RAM-OP field test is going to take place in Tanzania: Kibaha District Council, west of Dar es Salaam. This district is largely rural. HelpAge is already working there with a partner, the Good Samaritan Social Service Trust (GSSST).

In order to prepare for the survey, I went to Tanzania in June for a week, to meet with our local partners and start recruiting the enumerators.

Accompanied by our local partner from the GSST, I went to Kibaha District Council’s main town, Mlandizi. There, in Mlandizi Health Centre, I met the District Medical Officer and her team. She was extremely interested by the survey, and ensured us of her full support. She knows the current project implemented by HelpAge and the GSSST on improving chronic diseases management at community level, and she was ready to help us in recruiting the enumerators, and sent the advertisement for the job to various contacts in the district.

For one day, we organised two sessions for candidates who wanted to be enumerator or data entry clerk in the surveys. The advertisement had raised a lot of interest. Almost 30 people came to the interviews, sometimes coming from as far as Dar es Salaam and neighbouring districts. Each session consisted in a briefing on the project and the requirements of the jobs, followed by group discussions (on subjects such as the role of older people in society, main problems faced by older people in the district, challenges when implementing surveys, etc.) and one-to-one interviews. We had some excellent candidates, who showed an impressive level of motivation.

In the end of the day, we selected 16 candidates (9 of them women) for their good level in English, their motivation, their availability, their experience in working with older people or at community level, and their previous participation in household surveys. In August, before the survey is starting, they will be trained for a week on the field procedures, administering the questionnaire, measuring middle upper arm circumference, etc.

In order to have an idea of the environment, I then travelled a bit across Kibaha District Council: the rains which have just finished had been particularly violent, and most of the roads (which have no tarmac) have been badly damaged. You need a good four-wheel drive vehicle, an attentive driver, and a lot of patience to reach your destination: it took us more than one hour to reach a village about 30 kms away. We will need to take all this into account when planning for the survey implementation. Hopefully, the main roads will be repaired and re-graded before we start, but it is not certain.

I also discovered that the villages are often extremely large: some of them have an easy-to-identify centre, with a small market and houses, but a lot of them are just a reunion of scattered dwellings, whose boundaries are difficult to find. At the time of my travel, the vegetation was very high, hiding buildings, paths and fences, and making it very difficult to identify households. It was obvious however that the compounds are very scattered, and that our enumerators will have to walk quite a lot to go from one household to the other… They’d better be very motivated and well prepared!


Meeting older people in Tanzania. Credit: HelpAge

HelpAge International, Valid International and Brixton Health are developing an innovative method of assessing the needs of older people in emergencies, including their nutritional needs. The Rapid Assessment Method for Older People (RAM-OP) is meant to offer a simple, quick, reliable, robust and cost effective method for assessing the nutritional status and vulnerabilities of older people in emergencies.

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