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Case Study on Remote Situation Analysis and Data Collection Best Practice

Learn more from this case study on remote situation analysis and data collection best practice.

In March 2020, the Partnership Against Child Exploitation (PACE) and the CPC Learning Network was implementing a large-scale baseline study in Ethiopia assessing the living conditions of children suffering from various forms of labor and exploitation. With roughly two-thirds of the data collection completed, the first cases of COVID-19 reached the implementation area. In line with public health advice, data collection was halted.

The adapted case study extract below was documented by the CPC Learning Network with PACE. It describes the ethical and practical considerations faced while determining if and how to proceed with data collection during COVID-19.

Explore and respond to the short case study on remote situation analysis best practice.

Case Study


In the Amhara region of Ethiopia, the most harmful forms of child labor include stone and sand mining and the harvesting of the stimulant khat. PACE plans to tackle both the causes and consequences of child labor at the household level through education and livelihood support and at the community level through an awareness-raising campaign and the training of local law enforcement. Data collection involved in-person, digital surveys with 3,300 pre-registered households with at least one child (between 5 and 17 years old) employed in some form of paid or unpaid work.

Spread of the Disease and Survey Interruption

Data collection started on March 3, 2020, for seven weeks. The first coronavirus case in the country was identified on March 13th in Addis Ababa. Four weeks after the survey started, public health measures were implemented, and a 14-day lockdown was declared.

Once movement restriction had been lifted in the area, PACE assessed the ethical and practical considerations of field data collection in the time of COVID-19 to assess if, and how, to complete the survey.

COVID-19 Considerations Step One: “Do We Want to Finalize this Survey,” and “Should We Pursue the Data Collection?”

The survey sample completed when data collection was suspended was too small. Through weekly phone calls with local authorities and partners, PACE understood that school closures and the overall uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 crisis was having impacts on children’s educational outcomes and household decisions about work, including child labor. These considerations made data collection more relevant.

COVID-19 Considerations Step Two: “Could We Start Again?”

While the ban on movement had been lifted, the threat of the virus remained. To continue, there needed to be no suspicion of coronavirus cases in the targeted survey areas. PACE confirmed the official case count with key local contacts by telephone, contacted the local leader in each of the remaining targeted sub-districts and checked in with all enumerators who came from the area. These direct lines of inquiry confirmed there were no cases, that travel and usual life had resumed after the restrictions were lifted and that it was appropriate and welcome for PACE to resume the survey. District leaders reviewed the revised survey protocol and provided clearance to proceed.

COVID-19 Consideration Step Three: “Running a Survey under Strict Public Health Measures”

Social distancing measures in Ethiopia required that all vehicles had to be half-filled, and gatherings of more than four people were prohibited.

  • PACE worked with small teams of enumerators.
  • Enumerators were equipped with a hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves and received training on COVID-19 symptoms and prevention techniques using material developed by the Ethiopian Public Health Institute.
  • A protocol was developed laying out exact steps to follow as well as for instructions on how to explain social distancing measures to respondents (such as not shaking hands). For example, enumerators were required to:
  • Maintain a two-meter distance from other team members and respondents.
  • Wash their hands before and after each interview and use masks and gloves in specific situations.
  • Select interview spots in which a distance of two meters could be maintained between them and respondents while ensuring the conversation wouldn’t be heard by a third person.
  • Obtain verbal, rather than written, consent to avoid sharing the use of a pen.
  • Report any symptoms they might be feeling.

These steps met the ethical responsibility to ensure the survey would not contribute to the further spread of COVID-19 while generating important data on child labor in a context where it remains rampant.

Your Task

Having read the case study, use the comment box below to share and engage with other learners on these questions:

  • What is your perception of the steps that PACE took in relation to their ongoing survey when COVID-19 restricted the data collection? In your opinion, were there any other ethical issues that should have been considered?
  • How have you adapted situational analysis methods in your context? What ethical considerations were taken into account, and how were they addressed?
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