DTM data for Sectoral Severity and Priority Analysis


Jan 03 2020 Print

Using DTM MSLA data for sectoral Severity and Priority Analysis

DTM data are usually analysed by partners together with data from other sources and complementary datasets. In some cases, however, partners could decide to use DTM data for Severity Analysis. This may be the case in extremely data-poor contexts.

DTM and UNICEF-Led Cluster and Areas of Responsibility cooperated at global level to develop Child Protection, Education and WASH questions that can be effectively used for sectoral severity and priority.

UNICEF led Global Clusters and AoR in 2018 (WASH, Education and Child Protection) identified five clear objectives for the use of DTM data by clusters and AoRs in the field:

  • Establish priorities, i.e. identify IDPs sites or locations with the most unmet sectoral needs;
  • Establish severity or levels of risks, i.e. identify severity of conditions in IDPs sites or locations, within humanitarian sectors;
  • Identify underlying factors, i.e. identify main factors or barriers contributing to humanitarian outcomes, such as access, availability or quality issues;
  • Identify information needs, i.e. identify locations, sectors and affected groups requiring further assessments;
  • Identify gaps, i.e. monitor needs and response gaps over time.

A Step by Step narrative Guidance is available for field colleagues who intend to use DTM data to rank severity and priority in their sector.   In the first part of the Guidance, the process is explained for non-data/IM colleagues, and the second part takes IM/Data colleagues through the necessary step with examples of formulas, datasets, dataset management and dashboards.

The guidance also explains how to modify the DTM Field Companion questions, if information needs are different in the field. In addition, a narrated briefing explains the process.



5 types of questions are used for this analysis:

  1. Screening questions allow to identify the proportion of IDPs in the assessed location who are exposed to a particular problem or alternatively, the degree of unmet needs for a particular topic. Proposed screening questions all have answers coded along a ranking scheme, from 1 (e.g. No problem/nobody exposed to this issue) to 5 (e.g. critical problem/everybody exposed to the issue). Screening questions cover key topics of each Cluster/AoR analysis framework which are measurable using general Key Informants Interviews and/or not requiring specialized enumerators. They are used to calculate a deprivation score. Alternatively, each screening question can receive a weight from “1” (low risk/importance) to “3” (high risk/importance) which is used to calculate a risk score. 
  2. The severity question allows Key Informants to provide with an estimate of the severity of humanitarian conditions for a given sector and location. Statements are organized from low (1) to high (5) humanitarian impact and are based on mixed constructs (shortages, coping capacity, life threatening risks, etc.). The severity questions are related, however fundamentally different from the screening questions. They summarize humanitarian conditions and especially the severity of the humanitarian outcomes, using life-threatening and risk concepts. While screening questions typically measure the number of people exposed to a shortage or a deficiency, severity question are concerned with the consequences of this gap, and especially its impact on physical and mental wellbeing. In situations where large system disruption and shortages exist, this allow to better discriminate and prioritize IDPs locations.
  3. Underlying factors question(s) seek to identify the set of deficiencies or mechanisms which contribute directly or indirectly to humanitarian outcomes. For instance, increased watery diarrhoea (humanitarian outcome) can result from a lack of clean water and/or a lack of hygiene (underlying factor). Identifying underlying factors allows the design of programs that tackle the root causes of the problem and not only their symptoms. Typically, we consider that humanitarian outcomes originate from deficiencies/obstacles/barriers in access, availability, quality, use and awareness of basic goods and services. Since DTM primarily uses Key Informants Interviews, the list of potential underlying factors selected is mostly focus on issues related to accessibility, availability and quality of goods and services.
  4. Priority concerns questions seek to identify the humanitarian issues requiring immediate assistance. Key Informants are requested to identify and prioritize the most important sub-sector issues, using a ranking question. In practice, this allows to prioritize issues listed in the screening questions. This allows to further target better sectoral assessments or interventions. 
  5. Priority population groups questions seek to identify the population groups facing the most unmet needs or the most at risk. Key Informants are requested to identify and prioritize population groups the most in need, using a ranking question. This allows to further target better sectoral assessments or interventions.

Strengths and Limitations

  • The guidance details how to use some of the data produced by DTM MSLA in order to achieve the above-mentioned objectives. To accurately interpret and use the data collected, it is important for end users to understand the methodology and data collection techniques used to collect the information.
  • DTM location assessments are conducted at regular intervals (rounds) and are based on key informant interviews and direct observation. As for all assessment and monitoring tools using these data collection techniques, the accuracy of the data is highly dependent upon the skills of the enumerators, the role of the key informant in the considered location, the sectoral knowledge that they have, their proximity to the affected population and any personal or cultural bias that may affect their answers to sensitive questions.
  • DTM sectoral results are intended to provide an overview of a humanitarian situation at point and over time and are not intended to provide data at the level of detail or precision that can be achieved using specialized household level surveys. For this reason, the sectoral data collected during location assessment exercises is indicative only, should be interpreted carefully by sector experts and systematically triangulated with existing sectoral secondary data.
  • The result will prove very useful to monitor needs on a continuous basis and support high-level analysis and decision-making, i.e. to estimate the severity of conditions, identify priority IDPs locations and trigger more in-depth sectoral assessments if necessary. DTM sectoral results should not be used to inform the design of localized operations without proceeding first to a sectoral assessment using sector specific assessment tools, methodologies and specialists.
  • Any data interpretation process should be based on an in-depth understanding of the methodology and context by which the data was produced, including considerations of key informant’s selection, knowledge base, access limitations, etc. At field level, it is strongly recommended to Clusters and AoRs members to liaise with the DTM teams who will be available to assist and explain in more details the methodology used, its limitations as well as its strengths and how the data can be accurately interpreted. 

 Available Tools