Measuring household stress: Multi-Sector Coping Strategy Index (mCSI) for Afghanistan
Humanitarian aid agencies need a multi-sector method for estimating overall levels of household stress for targeting humanitarian assistance, as well as monitoring the effect of material and cash grants and other forms of aid.
However, detailed multi-sectoral assessments can be extremely lengthy (and therefore costly), complicated in generating reliable data, and time-consuming. In addition, emergency assessments need to be done rapidly (and must be repeated and updated frequently). As a result, the use of detailed and comprehensive methodologies is often not possible. Humanitarian aid agencies, therefore, rely largely on proxy-indicators when undertaking needs assessments. In the case of food security, or other abstract concepts that can’t be measured directly (such as women’s empowerment or governance), the use of proxy indicators is the only option available. Humanitarian aid agencies are therefore increasingly attracted towards using the Coping Strategy Index (CSI), which measures forms of household (or individual) stress through the frequency and severity of behaviours undertaken in response to stresses faced.
Oxfam in Afghanistan with co-funding support from ECHO has developed a multi-sector coping strategies index (mCSI) which aims to assess the need and monitor the impact of diverse and multi-sector humanitarian interventions. The study was done in consultation with different humanitarian clusters and agencies and technical groups, and field studies were conducted in Nangarhar, Herat, Kunduz, Kandahar and Kabul provinces using both qualitative and quantitative methods to verify its validity as a proxy of overall household stress.
The CSI was first developed to assess the household food security situation. A coping strategy is an action taken (strategy adopted) by households/individuals when shocks push them beyond the difficulties faced in “normal” times. The index then is a set of questions about the strategies households adapt to cope with the situation of insufficient food. From this origin, the use and analysis of variations of Coping Strategy Indexes have been expanded to measure responses to stress across several domains. A CSI is composed of indicators designed to assess household practices to mitigate, or respond to, stresses faced.
The tool is especially intended for use in cash, market-based or integrated programming with a potential impact and relevance across a number of sectors in Afghanistan.