In 2021 the GNC Technical Alliance’s Technical Support Team (TST) was requested to support SMART surveys in four drought-affected provinces in Southern and Central Angola. The assessment aimed to collect critical nutrition, health, IYCF (Infant and Young Child Feeding), and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) indicators to inform action.
As there was no known SMART trained capacity in Angola available to lead the assessments, and the existing TST Assessment Advisor, Alexa, spoke only basic Portuguese, a search for available Portuguese-speaking survey managers began. In line with the Alliance localisation strategy, efforts were made to prioritise national and regional expertise.
Six Portuguese-speaking individuals who had been trained by the SMART initiative as survey managers were contacted. Five were unavailable. The sixth was a promising regional candidate from Mozambique named Júlia. Júlia had an impressive nutrition research background but had not yet led a survey using the SMART Methodology. The TST developed a plan that, if successful, would mean that four SMART surveys could be implemented during the lean season in Angola and regional Portuguese-speaking capacity would be strengthened at the same time.
Alexa and Júlia deployed to Angola in October to begin the surveys. They worked closely with the Government of Angola, UNICEF and WFP to coordinate all activities. World Vision and Joint Aid Management (JAM) provided invaluable logistic and administrative support, sourcing everything from weight scales to surgical masks to make the surveys a reality.
First traveling together to Huíla Province, Alexa (with the support of an interpreter) and Júlia co-facilitated a SMART enumerator training. Then Alexa led data collection for Huíla Province and Cunene Province with five survey teams. Júlia then traveled to Benguela province. Armed with the tools, materials, and experiences from the first training, she facilitated her own SMART enumerator training and then led data collection for Benguela Province and Huambo Province with five survey teams. All of this had to be accomplished while appropriately protecting themselves, the survey teams, and the communities they visited during the COVID-19 context.
In the end, the four SMART Surveys were successfully conducted, providing critical data for advocacy and fundraising, while strengthening Portuguese speaking regional capacity to conduct SMART surveys!
For Júlia, having the opportunity to first support on preparations and the Huíla training as well as to shadow Alexa the first day of data collection in Huíla was essential for the success of the implementing her training and surveys in Benguela and Huambo provinces. At the same time, the success of the surveys in Huíla and Cunene would not have been possible without Júlia’s technical, contextual, and linguistic expertise.
Júlia recounted an impactful moment from the field:
“We reached remote villages and it was interesting and intriguing to see that in some cases these remote villages had a light trace of undernutrition compared to areas near the big city.”
Alexa and Júlia worked in close collaboration with partners to ensure all SMART training and data collection materials were translated into Portuguese. With support from local partners, they translated the electronic questionnaire into the three prominent local languages of Umbundu, Nyaneka, and Kwanhama to ensure strong comprehension.
Alexa shared one exceptional moment in the field:
“We arrived at a household where the mother, the only adult household member present, was deaf. I waited, expecting the team to arrange to return when another adult household member would be home. To my surprise and admiration, our supervisor stepped in and conducted the entire interview in Angolan Sign Language (ASL). I was beyond impressed! We were very lucky to have such a skilled supervisor with the team. It felt like a win for inclusion on this day.”
The support to Angola highlights how essential language and language capacity are in conducting surveys and providing support to countries.