Developing an integrated MDG database in Habitat communities -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Developing an integrated MDG database in Habitat communities

By Nestor Pestelos

During the last two years, HFH affiliates in the province of Bohol in the Philippines and in the districts of Dili, Aileu and Liquica in East Timor have pioneered the use of an integrated database that tracks the 12 Millennium Development Goals for participating households and the local village or settlement.

The database, known as Poverty Database Monitoring System (PDMS), was developed as part of an initiative of the provincial government of Bohol to ensure a cohesive response to poverty in the region. The resulting Bohol Poverty Reduction Program Framework set policy guidelines and program directions for all sectors in order to deliver basic services as well as to stimulate and sustain pro-poor economic growth. Starting in May 2002, the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate was among 15 NGOs involved in multi-sector consultations that eventually resulted in the development of the database.

As of August 2006, a total of 170,000 out of the 210,000 households in 47 municipalities and one city in the province had been included in the poverty database, now increasingly being used by projects for target-specific interventions at household and local community levels.

Both the government and NGOs can use it to track basic services actually reaching specific households, monitor the status of each household vis-à-vis the MDG indicators, and eventually, over a longer period, determine the actual impact of project interventions to households and local communities.

For instance, the database can supply the names of malnourished children, school dropouts, and the unemployed at various age levels, complete with their gender and addresses. This information is routinely provided to government agencies and NGOs in each municipality for their guidance in directing assistance in terms of service delivery and provision of livelihood support.

These indicators include education (school dropouts); health (malnutrition, child mortality, sanitation); unemployment; water source; income, meal and food thresholds; housing; and tenure status. In recent months, information on disability, illiteracy, maternal mortality and access to electricity have been included in the household survey instrument. Other indicators can be added to the survey instrument in accordance with the mandate of organizations conducting the survey, but the core poverty indicators are enough to rank basic levels of deprivation.

Bohol, Philippines and Habitat home partners

Bohol is the country’s 10th largest province with a land area of around 411,700 hectares. It has a population of 1.26 million, growing yearly at a rate of 2.92 percent, which is higher than the national average of 2.36 percent. In 2000, it was among the top 20 poorest provinces out of the country’s total 79 provinces. In terms of families, poverty incidence rose from 37.3 percent in 1997 to 47.3 percent in 2000. More than half of the population was below the poverty line.

Habitat for Humanity has operated since 1999 in two villages: Bool in Tagbilaran City and Tabalong in Dauis municipality. To date, it has a total of 327 home partners. Habitat has been able to establish the development status of each household in these two villages. Moreover, it has become possible to compare the status of Habitat home partners with those of other households in the village based on specific MDG indicators.

The local Habitat affiliate is now using the database to advocate with the local government and donors for assistance to families still burdened by high levels of deprivation. The data for Tabalong village in Dauis suggests that with shelter provision, households are better able to cope with poverty-associated deprivations.

The use of the MDG-focused poverty database has enabled the Habitat affiliate to expand its advocacy concerns not only in Habitat communities, but also in other areas with large concentrations of disadvantaged households and groups. For instance, the database has made it possible for Habitat for Humanity Bohol to work closely with the Provincial Association of Differently Abled and to propose to the city government a joint housing project. With the city government as a partner, the response to other basic needs will be assured.

East Timor

Habitat for Humanity East Timor, in cooperation with the Bohol Local Development Foundation Inc. used PDMS to conduct household surveys for its 764 home partners from the districts of Dili, Aileu and Liquica.

The findings were cited in a paper presented at the recent World Urban Forum in Canada by Steve Weir, vice president of Habitat for Humanity International’s Asia/Pacific area office. With the use of the MDG-focused poverty database, he was able to prove that no statistically significant difference exists between families who received a shelter kit provided by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) during the country’s emergency situation in 1999, and those who already lived in adequate housing at the time of the kit distribution in the areas of total deprivation, child mortality and malnutrition.

“These findings suggest that a US$264 shelter kit program enabled families to reach the same level of poverty reduction as those with adequate housing at the time of independence,” the paper said. “Why would we not increase the number of families assisted tenfold rather than increase the cost of assistance per family tenfold?” Steve Weir asked.

The PDMS data will be the basis of a new program thrust being formulated for Habitat operations in the country which will focus more on partnerships and joint projects with the government, the United Nations, bilateral agencies and civil society institutions in localizing MDGs in the provision of basic services and assistance, to informal employment through a proposed Habitat Resource Center.

Potential for partnership and resource development

In both Bohol and East Timor, Habitat for Humanity promotes vigorously the use of the poverty database monitoring system to bring about greater cooperation among key sectors. A common database on MDG indicators can indeed bring about a cohesive response to poverty-associated problems, ensuring in the process target-specific interventions.

Further development and use of the database as an effective tool looks very promising:

  • National organizations in both the Philippines and East Timor have integrated the household poverty surveys and the installation of an MDG database in all projects submitted to government and donors.
  • A cabinet-level project, carried out on a pilot basis in six municipalities in Bohol, used PDMS to bring about convergence of national and local efforts in addressing high levels of deprivation based on MDG indicators.
  • The British Embassy, through its Economic Governance Facility, is providing funding for the further development of the PDMS software so that it will have more enhanced user-friendly features.
  • The Australian Embassy, through its community grants projects, has made reference to the database as a requirement in seeking assistance to ensure the systematic delivery and monitoring of services to specific households and groups.
  • In recent months, the Bohol provincial government, backstopped by Habitat for Humanity International and Bohol Local Development Foundation Inc. (BLDF), has played host to several provinces and cities outside the province for their initial orientation in conducting household poverty surveys.

UNDP South Pacific is in final negotiations with Habitat for Humanity International and BLDF for the establishment of the MDG database at subnational levels initially in three countries: Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu. In preparation for this engagement, HFHI Asia Pacific and BLDF have jointly developed an interface for the PDMS software with DevInfo, the software used by the U.N. system worldwide to track the pursuit of MDGs. It is envisioned that DevInfo will be used at national and regional levels, while PDMS will focus on targeting specific households and communities at local levels.

Nestor M. Pestelos is the regional program manager for Southeast Asia with Habitat for Humanity Asia/Pacific.