Thirty Years of the DHS Program in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review of Contributions and Challenges
Jacob A. Adetunji, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
In 1984 when the US Agency for International Development launched the DHS program, sub-Saharan Africa was nearly a demographic ‘terra incognita’. Censuses were few and irregular in many countries, and nationally representative and cross-nationally comparable population surveys were almost non-existent. This paper reviews the contributions of the DHS program in the region. It shows that DHS has made tremendous contributions to improvements in the quality, availability and use of population and health data in the region. About 170 surveys have been completed in over 40 countries – representing over 50% of all surveys under the DHS program. Many countries have completed five or more surveys. The DHS program has also improved our understanding of trends, patterns and determinants of population and health problems in the region, boosted host country capacity for survey implementation and promoted host-country data ownership and use. Various measurement and capacity challenges that remain are also discussed.