About the program and this web site

The Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transition program is an interagency initiative to improve monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian assistance interventions. Specifically, the program will pilot an approach to routinely collect, analyze and disseminate information on the nutrition and mortality experience of populations served by humanitarian interventions.

The program will also provide implementing agencies and the broader humanitarian community with a wider range of tools to support humanitarian program assessment, monitoring and evaluation.

This website serves two key purposes:

  • First, the site serves as an organized workspace and knowledge repository to be used by core organizations and individuals involved in this program.
  • Secondly, the sites serves the specific needs of the information management working group. The charge of this subcommittee is to design a toolkit that will enable implementing agencies to collect, analyze and use relevant data; in addition, the committee will elaborate an approach for the analysis and dissemination of program field data to the wider humanitarian community.

Description of SMART Initiative



What is SMART?

SMART is a voluntary, collaborative network of organizations and humanitarian practitioners that includes donors, policymakers, and leading experts in emergency epidemiology and nutrition, food security, early warning systems, and demography. It includes all humanitarian organizations:  donors, international and UN agencies, NGOs, universities, research institutes and governments. 

SMART addresses issues of common interest to many organizations:

  • The need to standardize methodologies for determining comparative needs based on nutritional status, mortality rate, and food security.
  • The need to establish comprehensive, collaborative systems to ensure reliable data is used for decision making and reporting.

SMART advocates a multi-partner, systematized approach to provide critical, reliable information for decision-making. It is establishing shared systems and resources for the humanitarian community.

Why is SMART needed? 

There is a lack of:

  • Coherent understanding of need due to the use of many methodologies.
  • Consistent, reliable data for making decisions and reporting.
  • Technical capacity to collect and analyze reliable data.
  • Comprehensive, long-term technical support for strategic and sustained capacity building.  

The SMART methodology is critical to improving worldwide emergency assessment. The SMART methodology, with a comprehensive technical support system, will fundamentally reform and harmonize system-wide emergency responses by ensuring

  • policy and programming decisions are based on reliable, standardized data
  • humanitarian aid is provided to those most in need

The SMART methodology is based on Crude Death Rate (CDR) and Nutritional Status of Children Under-Five. These are the most vital, basic public health indicators of the severity of a humanitarian crisis. They monitor the extent to which the relief system is meeting the needs of the population and the overall impact and performance of the humanitarian response.

(b) Activities

SMART seeks to institutionalize evidence-based policy making and reporting on humanitarian crises.

It will provide:

  • A standardized methodology for assessing needs that will provide comparable data between countries and emergencies to prioritize resource allocations.
  • Technical support to build capacity for real time, standardized and reliable data for decision making. This will facilitate timely, appropriate assistance to those in need.
  • Reliable data for performance and results reporting, and trend analysis of humanitarian situations using mortality rate and nutritional status. This will improve understanding of the effects of our assistance.
  • Quick access to reliable data critical for decision making and response to enquiries. 

Priority Actions

  • Harmonize Needs Assessments: Develop a standardized SMART Methodology to determine needs, monitor and report on overall progress and trends.
  • Systematize Data Compilation, Analysis and Reporting: Establish the Complex-Emergencies Database (CE-DAT), a searchable database for rapid access to standardized, validated data on mortality, morbidity and nutritional status.
  • Build Capacity:  A comprehensive training and technical support system to ensure host governments and other partners collect and use reliable data.  A tiered system, from graduate MS/MPH program to short courses tailored to meet various needs will be pilot tested in English, followed by a French version in collaboration with African universities. The support system includes a virtual library, a list serve and rapid response service to support field surveys.
  • Research and Upgrade: Iterative upgrading of the SMART Methodology based on new findings, best practices and emerging issues. Close knowledge gap and establish standards for overall vulnerability assessments and recommendations for reform.

(c) Methodology


Harmonize Needs Assessments


The July 2002 SMART workshop, attended by 45 humanitarian organizations, recommended the development of a standardized methodology to assess nutritional status and mortality rate. They are considered the most basic, vital public health indicators of the severity of a crisis, and useful to identify need and monitor the overall impact and performance of the relief system [1] .

CIDA provided funds, and the development work was coordinated by UNICEF/USAID.


The SMART methodology was developed over a two-year period by a core expert panel drawn from CDC, universities, NGOs and UN partners, with leading experts in emergency epidemiology and nutrition, food security, early warning systems, and demography.

The methodology parameters were reviewed by a group of technical partners in Brussels, July 2004, before drafting started. Drafts were circulated in late 2004 and early 2005. Action Against Hunger (Chad) and FAO (Somalia) conducted/are conducting pilot tests of the nutrition/mortality methodology and the analytical software program. Their experience will be discussed at the SMART Meeting, June 23 – 24, 2005. The food security component is “work in progress” in Version 1.

Core Elements

The SMART methodology brings coherence to needs assessments and addresses emerging issues such as dynamic population movements.

The SMART methodology integrates three critical data points for assessing need in complex crises: mortality, nutrition, and food security.

§         It draws from core elements of several methodologies and current best practices in assessing nutritional status, mortality rate, and food security.

§         It is iterative, with continuous upgrading that is informed by research and best practices. Version 1 is the primer for assessing nutritional status and mortality rate. In this version, the food security component is “work in progress.”

§         The Windows-based analytical software program and its standardized reporting format simplify the tedious process of data entry and analysis. The built-in data quality assurance feature eliminates data entry errors.

§         The intended users are host government partners and humanitarian organizations. The methodology’s level of difficulty is a conscientious balance between simplicity (for rapid assessment of acute emergencies) and technical soundness.



Systematize Data Compilation, Analysis, Reporting

A core function of the SMART initiative is a multi-sourced, searchable database that has been established by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), Brussels, with funding from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (State/PRM).  

Although several excellent conflict databases exist, they focus on political and legal aspects. None of them provide a comprehensive picture of the human impact of conflicts in terms of mortality, morbidity and nutrition. Neither is there a central source for data on protracted complex emergencies, which require long term monitoring. CE-DAT provides a “one-stop shop” for commonly accepted indicators of health and nutrition status in conflict situations.

CE-DAT  produces:

·         online, publicly accessible database that is a compilation of quantitative and qualitative information from numerous credible sources, linked to existing conflict databases

·         information on the human impact of conflicts by compiling and ranking (based on data source and reliability) all available data related to the health status (mortality, morbidity and nutritional status) of conflict-affected populations

·         a special emphasis is placed on collecting data reflecting a conflict’s long term health consequences on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Refugees

·         CE-DAT will serve as SMART’s primary data source for trend analysis, policy recommendations, monitoring and reporting, and impact briefings.

To provide this unique data collection to the humanitarian community, CE-DAT simultaneously developed a web-based interface. This interface, fully functional today, allows any user to extract data according to the user needs. This is provided free of charge and on-demand analyses are also regularly performance. For example, CE-DAT has proven useful to monitor and analyze updated mortality data in Darfur, Sudan.

CE-DAT complements the Emergency Database (EM-DAT), the International Disaster Database, which is funded by USAID’s Office for Disaster Assistance (OFDA). CE-DAT is the authoritative source for world disaster data, including the World Disaster Report, the UNDP Global report on natural disasters, and the ISDR/Living with Risk publications.

(e) Capacity building


Build Capacity to Collect and Analyze Data

In order to maintain and sustain the SMART community of practice, a mechanism for technical support and networking is being planned.  This will include:

·         Institution of a comprehensive training system

·         Strategic planning for improvement of SMART Methodology based on research and best practice

·         Establishment of subject matter experts, advisory group meetings, and applied research teams

·         Technical support to countries to collect and analyze data. Support system:

-          SMART website at smartindicators.org that will be incrementally expanded to include chat room, etc

-          Virtual library on health, nutrition, food security and related topics

-          Listserve service and rapid response system served by a technical expert group to guide and review surveys, and respond to technical enquiries from implementing partners. 

Comprehensive training system:

  • A sustained, comprehensive training and technical support strategy will build capacity at all levels, in particular at the country level.
  • The capacity building strategy utilizes two principal elements, the creation and maintenance of electronic toolkits for field workers, initially and later decision-makers, policy makers, etc. and building a training system.
  • Training will be tailored to meet the needs of various organizations – from short term certification course, long distance, or integrated into graduate MS, MPH, and doctoral program.
  • The notion of a training system is that it is sustainable to ensure that learning opportunities for SMART methods are widely available and incorporated into on-going educational programs.

For example, Tulane University proposes to establish a SMART University Cooperative of universities in different parts of the world that agree to incorporate SMART methods into their graduate curriculum. Tulane and other members of the Cooperative already offer graduate degrees in evidence-based humanitarian practice (MS, MPH, doctoral) that will be articulated with SMART certificate training activities in the field and specific course modules offered by distance methods. The Cooperative will include key universities from the developing world. SMART methods capacity building will focus on capacity building within developing countries, in cooperation with local universities and institutes.


References to SMART

  • United States Government Accountability Office. Darfur Crisis: Death Estimates Demonstrate Severity of Crisis, but Their Accuracy and Credibility Could be Enhanced, Report to Congressional Requesters, November 2006.

    "In addition, the NGOs that conduct mortality surveys in Darfur do so primarily to monitor conditions in the camps they serve, and they generally do not disseminate the survey results. To address this problem, CE-DAT was established in 2003, under the Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) initiative, to provide quick access to accurate and reliable data needed by humanitarian decision makers. However, the usefulness of the database is limited, because NGOs are not reporting the survey results systematically and because the quality of many of the reported surveys is problematic."

  • Ralte, Anne (USAID). SMART: a collaborative approach to determining humanitarian needs, Humanitarian Exchange, Humanitarian Practice Network at ODI, Number 32 December 2005.

    "The way in which humanitarian needs are defined and prioritised can mean the difference between life and death for millions of the world’s poorest people. It is,therefore, critical that donors and humanitarian organisations invest effort and resources to ensure that our understanding is as accurate as possible, and programmes are directed to those most in need.
    Responses to emergencies require a consistently accurate picture of the scale and nature of the problems people face. Decisions should be informed by that understanding. But until now there has been no system-wide framework for judging the relative severity of situations. This may change with the Standardised Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) initiative."

  • Task Force on Hunger (UN Millennium Project) included a discussion of SMART vis-a-vis the urgent need to strengthen early warning systems. See the section: Build and strengthen national and local early systems, page 147:

    "Further developments include the Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions initiative, which seeks to standardize methods and approaches for measuring and documenting the effectiveness of humanitarian responses by measuring child malnutrition and mortality, as well as food security indicators, against benchmarks. Such initiatives, aimed at raising transparency and enhancing the effectiveness of international action, should similarly inform and assist national action."

  • The Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) did a study on needs assessment and decision making in humanitarian assistance. The study was commissioned by the Montreux group of donors, funded by DFID, ECHO and AusAID. SMART is included as it advocates the use of shared, reliable, standardized benchmark indicators among donors and humanitarian organizations. See page 55 of document:

    “This study supports the use of mortality and under-five nutrition as key bases of analysis, and in that sense believes the SMART initiative to be important, especially in its attempts to build consensus around methodology.” http://www.reliefweb.int/w/lib.nsf/WebPubDocs/FA0CDD81255201BAC1256D5D002D428E?OpenDocument


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