Making ‘SENS’ of the Findings

Clear objectives improve success rates. All stakeholders must agree upon the objectives of the survey. Before the SENS guidelines were published, survey objectives were difficult to define, and long debates confused the process.  Now, since the objectives laid out in the 7 modules of the SENS guidelines are clear and standardised, they allow for the same survey methods to be used year after year. This means that programmes can be monitored with the confidence that we are making true comparisons of a population’s status from one year to the next.

A SENS nutrition survey alone cannot tell us everything. It measures the situation at one point in time, taking a detailed snapshot. We can be confident about the existing situation, however the survey does not go back in time to tell us why such a situation exists. For example, a SENS nutrition survey may highlight worrying levels of malnutrition among children but the reasons why those children are malnourished may not be deduced from the SENS nutrition survey data alone. Therefore, by combining SENS nutrition survey results with already existing assessments like JAM or screening reports, monitoring and surveillance data available like iRHIS, WASH monitoring system or nutrition programme data, we end up with a very good description of that particular refugee context, and we are better able to improve outcomes. 

Interpretation of results should be a collaborative activity with colleagues from food security, public health, WASH and livelihoods and others. After the survey, colleagues from these sectors should thoroughly go through the results and finalise their recommendations. It is easy to revert to an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” way of thinking after completion of the survey, but it’s important to recognise that lessons learned and recommendations are extremely valuable in programme planning and monitoring. This is why it is important to be actively involved in the reporting process and to reply in a timely manner to the survey coordinator’s request for feedback when finalising the report.

UNHCR SENS v3