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Research Design and Sample

The Acholi districts in northern Uganda have been the most affected by the violence, although civilians in neighboring districts were also affected. Thus in the 2005 and 2007 surveys, representative data were also collected for the neighboring districts of Oyam, Lira, Amuria, and Soroti. In 2010, however, the scope and resources for the survey necessitated limiting geographic coverage. Specifically, the survey included a component to examine differences between areas for which USAID’s Northern Uganda Transition Initiative (NUTI) program provided support, and areas with no support, requiring a larger sample size per stratum.  Budget and time constraints meant that areas outside of the Acholi districts could not be included in the survey while maintaining the same level of detail. The present report focuses on the Acholi districts level analysis. Comparison with earlier surveys are made for the Acholi districts only.

Within each district, two strata were created depending on NUTI’s intervention sites. NUTI has programs in four sub-counties in Amuru District (Attiak, Pabbo, Alero, and Purongo), two sub-counties in Gulu District (Odek and Awach), three sub-counties in Kitgum (Agoro, Kitgum Matidi, and Namokora), and one sub-county in Pader District (Lira Palwo). NUTI selected these 10 sub-counties based on the political situation, community need, and strategic advantage for success. In each of the 10 sub-counties, we randomly selected six populated places; for the sub-counties where NUTI does not operate, we randomly selected a total of 22 populated places.[1] The selection of populated places was made randomly, using a systematic procedure. Because existing population figures were unreliable at the populated place level, population size was assessed during the survey.

Within villages, interviewers were assigned to zones where they selected every other household in a randomly chosen direction, starting from the center of the zone. In each household (defined as a group of people normally sleeping under the same roof and eating together), interviewers randomly selected one adult to be interviewed from a list of all eligible adults. Three attempts were made to contact a household or individual before replacing them with another.

A total of 148 sites were selected. At these sites, 2,600 households were approached for interviews, and 2,498 agreed to participate (96% participation rate). Within these 2,498 households, a total of 2,525 individuals were approached, and 2,498 participated in the interview (99% participation rate, with one individual selected per participating household). The final sample size is therefore 2,498 individuals.

Both the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology reviewed and approved the study protocol. Approval to conduct interviews was also obtained from local authorities at each survey site. Oral informed consent was obtained for each selected participant; neither monetary nor material incentives were offered for participation.

Research Instruments

Interviews were conducted using a standardized semi-structured questionnaire covering (1) respondents’ demographics, (2) priorities and services, (3) access to information, (4) resettlement, social cohesion and community relations, (5) health, (6) security and conflict resolution, (7) domestic violence, (8) peace, (9) justice and accountability, (10) the International Criminal Court, (11) non-judicial measures for victims and reparations, (12) exposure to violence, and (13) psychological impact of the conflicts. The questionnaire was developed by a team with expertise in this type of research after consultation with local experts. Response options based on pilot interviews were provided to the interviewer for coding but were not read to study participants with the exception of questions employing a scaling format (e.g., Likert scale). An open-ended field was always available to record complete responses. The questionnaire and consent documents were first developed in English and then translated into Acholi, the primary local language spoken throughout the four selected districts. An independent back-translation and pilot surveys were used to finalize and validate the instruments.

Once the questionnaire was finalized, it was programmed into a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) using KoBo, our custom data collection package.[2] The use of PDAs allows enumerators to enter the data directly as they conduct interviews. The forms contain a built-in verification system that reduces the risk of skipping questions or entering erroneous values, resulting in higher quality of data. Daily synchronization with a central computer allows the lead researchers to check data for consistency and outliers during data collection.

Figure 1: PDA and Solar Chargers

Figure 1 - PDA and Solar Chargers

Data Collection and Analysis

Data collection took place over six weeks during April and May 2010. Four teams of four men and four women (a total of 32 interviewers), implemented the study under the guidance of the lead researchers and four field supervisors. The interviewers were university students or professionals with research experience. Prior to collecting the data they participated in a seven-day training workshop that explained the objectives and content of the study, survey and interview techniques, use of the PDA, trouble-shooting, and solving technical problems.[3] The training included mock interviews and pilot-testing with randomly selected individuals at non-sampled sites.

At the survey sites each interviewer was expected to conduct four interviews per day, each lasting an average of one hour and ten minutes. One-on-one interviews were conducted anonymously in a confidential setting. Due to the sensitivity of some questions, the interviewers were assigned to same-sex respondents. Upon selection of study participants, oral rather than written informed consent was obtained because of the high illiteracy rate in northern Uganda. After data collection, the data were imported for analysis with the Stata version 11. All results presented here accounted for the complex sampling methodology and weight factors.


Several limitations are inherent to the method and context of this study. The sample was designed to be representative of the districts under study, not the whole of northern Uganda, since only the Acholi districts were included in the survey. In addition, the researchers had no control over NUTI’s selection of intervention sites because the programs were implemented prior to the researchers’ involvement in the project. Hence, a randomized control study in which intervention and control would be randomly assigned could not be implemented. Thus the existence and effect of confounding factors are uncertain. Some villages, households, and individuals had to be replaced, and it is unknown how the individuals replaced might have differed from those interviewed. In addition, it is possible that responses were influenced by inaccurate recall, social desirability, and concerns over safety in areas affected by armed conflict.

Comparisons with results from the 2005 and 2007 are possible at the district population level for the Acholi population. In 2005, however, Pader was not surveyed. In addition, it is possible that population movements across districts affect the comparison. However, most of the population was generally displaced within their district of origin.

The training, use of a consent form, anonymous interviews, confidentiality, supervision, and quality control were all designed to reduce biases and errors. Constructs and terminology used for this study were not defined or explained to the participants, to avoid influencing them. As a result, they were free to interpret those concepts based on their own understanding. To address this limitation, we asked respondents to define key concepts (e.g., peace, justice), and throughout the questionnaire, we carefully chose phrasing and translation that would avoid misunderstanding.


[1] Populated places include villages, urban neighborhoods, new resettlement sites, and former camps.

[2] Since 2007, the Human Rights Center has been developing KoBo, a set of tools to facilitate electronic data collection based on Open Data Kit. The tool was first piloted in northern Uganda and bears the Acholi name, KoBo, which means “transfer” in the local language.

[3] The PDAs are designed to be used by interviewers with little or no computer experience.