What is SMART?

SMART (Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions) is an inter-agency initiative launched in 2002 by a network of organizations and humanitarian practitioners. SMART advocates a multi-partner, systematized approach to provide critical, reliable information for decision-making, and to establish shared systems and resources for host government partners and humanitarian organizations.

SMART Methodology is an improved survey method that balances simplicity (for rapid assessment of acute emergencies) and technical soundness. It draws from the core elements of several methodologies with continuous upgrading informed by research and current best practices.

The SMART survey methodology is based on the two most vital and basic public health indicators for the assessment of the magnitude and severity of a humanitarian crisis:

  • Nutritional status of children under-five.
  • Mortality rate of the population.

These indicators are useful for prioritizing resources as well as for monitoring the extent to which the relief system is meeting the needs of the population, and therefore the overall impact of relief response.

SMART Methodology looks to reform and harmonize assessments of and responses to emergencies and for surveillance (if used at equal time intervals). It ensures that policy and programming decisions are based on reliable, standardized data and that humanitarian aid is provided to those most in need.

Advantages of Using SMART

SMART ensures that consistent and reliable survey data is collected and analyzed using a single standardized methodology. It provides technical capacity for decision-making and reporting, and comprehensive support for strategic and sustained capacity building.


  • Integrates 2 critical data points for assessing needs in complex crises: nutrition and/or mortality.
  • Incorporates core elements of several survey methodologies, and is continuously updated with current research and best practices.
  • ENA software provides a standardized reporting format that simplifies data entry and analysis.
  • Facilitates the survey process with flexible sample & cluster sizes, and standardizes survey protocols with the use of replacement clusters, household selection techniques, and best field practices (e.g. for absent children or empty households).

SMART Components

Nutrition surveys using SMART methodology can be conducted to assess the severity of a situation. These surveys measure acute malnutrition of the whole population via estimates of:

  • Prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) in children aged 6-59 months.
  • Crude mortality rate (CMR) in a given population over a specific period of time.

SMART’s components (nutrition and mortality) should be seen as complementary but not nested; not every nutrition survey needs to include mortality, this depends on the situation at hand.

Technical Advisory Group

The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) is a group of eminent experts in epidemiology, emergency nutrition, nutritional security, early warning systems, and demography who created the SMART methodology in collaboration with partners from the CDC, universities, United Nations, and various NGOs. The TAG is responsible for the continuous enhancement of SMART based on field experiences.

Michael Golden: Chairman of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG).

Michael studied physiology and medicine to become a gastroenterologist by the early 1970s. His clinical practice led him to switch to nutrition and paediatrics. He worked at, and later directed, Waterloo's old unit in Jamaica for 17 years, researching all aspects of malnutrition. Michael returned to the UK in 1991 and has since been working as a consultant for various NGOs and UN agencies involved in malnutrition, as well as teaching at Aberdeen University in Scotland.


Oleg Bilukha: Sampling methods in SMART.

Since 2000, Oleg has been working as a Medical Epidemiologist with the International Emergency and Refugee Health Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  He obtained his MD from Lviv State Medical Institute, Ukraine, where he trained as an obstetrician-gynaecologist. He received his PhD in Nutrition (with minors in Epidemiology and Consumer Economics) from Cornell University, USA. Oleg Bilukha has served as a consultant and temporary advisor to the WHO, UNHCR, WFP, and UNICEF on multiple assignments all over the globe. His extensive experience includes international nutrition, statistics, epidemiology, surveys and surveillance, war-related injury and reproductive health. 


Juergen Erhardt: ENA software development.

Juergen has a PhD in human nutrition from Hohenheim University, Germany. Since 2003 he has worked on improving laboratory methods for measuring the micronutrient status and developing nutrition software at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta.


Courtland Robinson: Mortality in SMART.

Courtland is an Assistant Professor at the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. He has been involved in refugee research and policy analysis since 1979.  Courtland has worked with the Indochina Refugee Action Center, Save the Children, World Education, U.S. Committee for Refugees, Asian Research Center for Migration and Mercy Corps.  His current research activities include famine and distress migration in North Korea, demographic assessment methods in complex emergencies, and development-induced displacement.


John Seaman: Food Security in SMART.

John graduated in medicine from the London Hospital in 1971 and began his career with extensive field work in Biafra, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and the Sahel. In 1992 he initiated work on a methodology for famine prediction and vulnerability assessment (the ‘Household Economy Approach’), which became operational in 1997.  John was Head of Policy Development at Save the Children UK from 1979-1997, and during this period his professional responsibility and interest was in household economy, food and nutrition, and the economic aspects of health policy.  From 1998 to 2004 he was Research Director of the Food Security and Livelihoods Unit, Save the Children UK.  John is a co-founder of Evidence for Development.





Action Against Hunger – Canada

During a meeting on SMART in Rome in April 2008, the Global Nutrition Cluster Assessment Working Group noted that a lack of institutional leadership of SMART had hampered its development and implementation over time. Consequently, ACF-Canada was established as project convener for SMART, ensuring a link between the technical advisory group, users and experts.

Since the end of that project, the IASC Global Nutrition Cluster, several NGOs and UNICEF regional offices called for a more coordinated response mechanism, where a key agency acts as the lead in the preparation and planning for emergency relief and in addressing survey needs.

Presently, ACF-CA is acting as this lead agency in continuing the planning and organization of relevant SMART training and development. It is also the link between SMART users and the SMART TAG on methodology improvements, and updates SMART materials with the latest information and research.


Timeline of SMART’s development

Development of SMART began in 2002 by the TAG, a core of expert panellists in emergency epidemiology and nutrition, food security, early warning systems and demography, drawn from the CDC, various universities, NGOs and UN partners.

Since its inception in 2006, local ministries of health & institutes of statistics, ACFIN, Concern, GOAL, IRC, MSF, Save the Children, UNICEF, WFP, World Vision, and the FAO, among others, have used the SMART Methodology.  SMART Version 2 will be released at the end of 2013.

Technical and/or operational meetings are held on an ongoing basis to discuss how SMART can continue to evolve and be implemented in various countries.

Important Dates :

  • 2002

    Development of SMART methodology.

    July: First SMART workshop initiated by USAID, State/PRM, and CIDA. Technical working session: "Standardizing Survey Methodology" and Policy session: “Promoting Policy & Program Priorities Based on Data”.

  • 2003

    Development of SMART methodology.

    May: Private Voluntary Organizations/Donor Meeting.
    Click on SMART Community Support Proposal for the presentation.

  • 2004

    Development of SMART methodology.

    July: SMART Expert Panel Meeting at the CRED, Brussels.  

    July: Methodology Review: Triangulation of nutritional status of children under five, mortality rate & food security in an integrated survey protocol.

  • 2005

    June: First draft of SMART Manual. SMART roll-out meeting held at UNICEF House, New York: “Saving Lives: the Right Information for the Right Decision”.

    Pilot-tests of SMART methodology with Nutrisurvey (later named ENA) software:
    - ACF pilot tested the methodology in Chad; Niger; Mali (Nutrition and Mortality).
    - FSAU (FAO) pilot tested methodology in Somalia (Nutrition and Mortality).
    - UNICEF pilot tested methodology in Madagascar (Nutrition and Mortality).
    - MSF pilot tested methodology in Nigeria (Food security).

  • 2006

    Publication of manual: “Measuring Mortality, Nutritional status and Food Security in Crisis Situations: SMART METHODOLOGY. Version 1” 

    Launch of the 1st SMART website: http://www.smartindicators.org/ Manual and software available for free download

    Nutrition and mortality modules of SMART and ENA software used by: Local ministries of health & institutes of statistics, ACFIN, Concern, GOAL, IRC, MSF, Save the Children, UNICEF, WFP, World Vision, etc. Food security module used by: FAO, MSF.

  • 2007

    Announcement that funding was available to work on SMART Version 2 at the Global Nutrition Cluster meeting in Geneva (November 2007)

  • 2008

    April: SMART Expert Panel Meeting, FAO, Rome: “Global Nutrition Cluster Assessment Working Group (AWG) Meeting on SMART”.

    September: SMART workshop, USAID, Washington, D.C.: “Understanding the SMART methodology & importance of using them for assessments.”

  • 2010

    September-October: Emergency response to the floods in Pakistan where several SMART surveys took place.

    October: Release of the Standardized Training Package in English, for preparing survey teams in SMART.

  • 2011

    February: Release of the Standardized Training Package in French, for preparing survey teams in SMART.

    February: Meeting of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on the development of version 2 of the SMART manual.

    May: SMART survey manager-level training for US-based NGO headquarter staff and CDC staff involved in nutrition and mortality surveys in humanitarian settings.

    August-December: SMART trainings and technical survey support for the Horn of Africa Crisis.

  • 2012

    March: Development of the 'Sampling Methods & Sample Size Calculation for the SMART methodology'.

    July: Launch of the new user-friendly SMART website.

    SMART Version 2 in progress.



SMART Methodology - 2012