Fatma M. Abdelaziz (IFPRI-Egypt)
The Household Income, Expenditure, and Consumption Survey (HIECS) is one of Egypt’s most important nationwide surveys. HIECS provides a large pool of data on household expenditures and consumption. The Egyptian government relies on these data to measure national poverty rates, living standards, inflation, and the like. But can even more be learned from HIECS?
HIECS data—if used in different ways—have more stories to tell. One such story is about the status of food security and nutrition in Egypt. The 2010/2011 and 2014/2015 HIECS rounds collected data on household dietary diversity and anthropometry for children and women of reproductive age. Anthropometric indicators that can be derived from the data include height-for-age, weight-for-height, and weight-for-age z-scores for children under five years of age—indicating child stunting, wasting, and underweight—as well as Body Mass Index (BMI) for women. These anthropometric indicators can provide a rich source of information to help in the design of more efficient policy and targeted development programs to address national food and nutrition security.
If these survey modules are regularly added to the HIECS, and households and individuals are tracked over time, the survey could become an even better source for food and nutrition security-related analysis in Egypt. Researchers have already mined HIECS data for insights into the effects of social protection policies on nutrition. For example, to investigate the direct effects of Egypt’s food subsidies on child and maternal nutrition and household diet quality, the authors of the book Nutrition and Economic Development: Exploring Egypt’s Exceptionalism and the Role of Food Subsidies drew on data from the 2010/2011 HIECS. They showed that Egypt’s food subsidy system contributed to sustaining and even aggravating the double burden of malnutrition (that is, the coexistence of undernutrition and overnutrition), which has been exceptionally pronounced in Egypt compared to other countries around the world.
In light of HIECS’s potential as source for informing development policy as well as IFPRI’s mandate to build capacity within Egypt, IFPRI conducted a training for fifteen analysts in the Central Agency of Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), Egypt’s official statistical agency. Led by IFPRI research fellow Dr. Olivier Ecker, the lead author of Nutrition and Economic Development, the March 1 training aimed to teach participants how to utilize HIECS data for basic food security and nutrition analysis.
Building on the ongoing collaboration between CAPMAS and IFPRI, the training provided opportunities for sharing information and strengthening capacities. Dr. Ecker began by introducing participants to the different concepts and measurements of food and nutrition security and the methods used to collect anthropometric measures. This was a key aim of the session, because, as Dr. Ecker noted, “without fully understanding the multiple purposes of data analysis and the concepts and measurements of food and nutrition security, one cannot make sound and meaningful analysis of the data collected.” After that, the participants learned how to calculate different anthropometric indicators using the STATA data analysis software and the 2010/2011 HIECS data. Now it is time for the CAPMAS team to explore the 2014/2015 HIECS data, applying what they learned to see if the latest data have different stories to tell.