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An enumerator from the RAMMPS fieldwork team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo making calls for the mobile-phone mortality survey

Rapid Mortality Mobile Phone Surveys (RAMMPS)

Population-based mortality statistics are essential components of an effective public health response to epidemic outbreaks or other crisis situations. The RAMMPS consortium is developing and implementing an innovative mobile-phone based approach to generate national mortality estimates, including excess mortality, where civil registration is incomplete and face-to-face data collection is interrupted or hindered.

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The RAMMPS consortium is made up of 11 collaborating partners.

Learn more about partners, funding, and Scientific Advisory Committee members.


The RAMMPS project is implemented as a series of five country case studies that share a focus on mortality measurement via mobile phone surveys, but they differ in terms of the instruments used, the sampling approach and fieldwork implementation.


The RAMMPS instruments are slightly different for each country case study.

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Population-based mortality statistics are a key element informing public health policies and the response to epidemic outbreaks or other crisis situations. Ideally, mortality statistics are derived from civil registration and vital statistics systems (CRVS), but in many low- and lower-middle income countries, these are insufficient to fulfil that role. In these settings, mortality estimates are usually based on surveys and censuses, but these are organised infrequently and often interrupted for the same reasons that cause mortality to rise. The RAMMPS project seeks to address this data gap through the development and piloting of methods for conducting mortality surveillance via mobile phone surveys.

The RAMMPS project was launched in December 2020 and data are being collected in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Mozambique.

RAMMPS objectives

The RAMMPS project is implemented as a series of five country case studies (Figure 1) with two components:

(i) a national RAMMPS that is implemented as a series of repeated cross-sectional surveys implemented (in most cases spread over a 12-month period), and

(ii) targeted sub-studies focused on populations covered by other data sources for validation purposes. The overall aim of the project is to evaluate the use of mortality mobile phone surveys for estimating (excess) mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic in five LLMICs. More specific objectives of this project are to:

  • Develop and validate RAMMPS instruments and methods for mortality estimation
  • Generate mortality estimates during COVID-19 by age (with a focus on overall, old age and under-five mortality), sex and regional locality, and compare them to a pre-COVID-19 baseline.
  • To evaluate RAMMPS as a cost-effective approach for mortality surveillance beyond COVID-19.

The RAMMPS project is implemented through collaboration between universities, governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the USA, the UK, Belgium, Abu Dhabi and each of the five countries where RAMMPS will be implemented. Figure 1 illustrates the geographic spread of the RAMMPS country case studies. 

Map showing the geographic spread of the RAMMPS country case studies
Figure 1
Bill and Melinda Gates, UKAID, and USAID logos

The RAMMPS project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (through an agreement with UNICEF-USA) with supplementary funding from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office for the DRC RAMMPS, USAID for the Mozambique RAMMPS and institutional funding from NYU for the Malawi RAMMPS.  

The RAMMPS project entails collaboration between 13 universities, governmental and non-governmental organisations in 5 countries. Some of the coordinating functions are performed by LSHTM, and Ties Boerma chairs the RAMMPS Strategic Advisory Committee (SAC). 

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The RAMMPS project is implemented as a series of five country case studies that share a focus on mortality measurement via mobile phone surveys, but they differ in terms of the instruments used, the sampling approach and fieldwork implementation. Because mortality surveillance via mobile phone interviews have not been systematically used, the RAMMPS project includes a number of (nested) validation studies.

Survey instruments

Household Deaths

The purpose of the household deaths module is to provide a rapid assessment of the short-term fluctuations in the overall crude death rate, and the death rate in children aged 0-4 years. Collecting detailed data on household composition can be time consuming. Instead, a short form questionnaire is used to collect age-aggregated mortality data, i.e., the number of household members up to/above age five; number of deaths up to/above age 5 over a specified time period.

Full/Truncated Birth or Pregnancy Histories

Although the mortality risks from COVID-19 mortality in children is low, it is hypothesized that the indirect impact can be substantial. Full Birth Histories (FBH) are routinely used in DHS and MICS to collect data on U5M. Truncated birth or pregnancy histories (TBH), a shorter version of FBH, are used to collect data on U5M among children born in the last five or seven years only. In the RAMMPS studies, the TBH instrument from the questionnaire has been adapted for use from the Malaria Indicator Surveys.

Parental Survival Histories

Parental Survival Histories (PSH) are well-suited for monitoring COVID-19 mortality through RAMMPS as they require limited time to collect and produce mortality estimates for an age range where individuals are most at risk.

Sibling Survival Histories

Sibling Survival Histories (SSH) are routinely collected in the DHS and can be adapted or shortened for the purpose of the RAMMPS. Even though direct COVID-19 mortality is probably modest in this age range, the SSH offer an opportunity to elicit information on mortality among the pregnant and postpartum women.

COVID Vaccination

Most RAMMPS includes a few questions to assess COVID-19 vaccine coverage and vaccine hesitancy among those not yet vaccinated.

Validation studies

RAMMPS questionnaires are adapted from standard instruments for estimating mortality in surveys and censuses. As mobile phone surveys have not yet been used for measuring mortality, this approach requires validation. This entails:

1. a priori validation of RAMMPS survey instruments using other data sources (e.g. comparison of estimates using short form versus full survey instruments; evaluation of bias associated with mobile phone ownership). This work is led by Bruno Masquelier at UC Louvain.

2. ex post-facto validation of RAMMPS mortality estimates against external data sources. Validation of mortality data generated via RAMMPS can be done at the individual level (using individually-linked RAMMPS and reference datasets such as COMSA or HDSS) or at the aggregated level (using aggregated mortality estimates from other sources, including COMSA, HDSS and DHS).

3. Proxy Birth Histories (PBH) validation studies: PBHs are a tool for collecting birth histories through proxy respondents. More specifically, it involves asking women of reproductive age (WRA) to not only report their own FBH but also the birth histories of their reproductive aged sisters or confidants. PBH are appealing because it increases the effective sample size and thus has the potential to improve the cost-effectiveness of mobile phone interviews for estimating (excess) U5M. Further, PBH are collected irrespective of the survival status of the mother, and this could reduce bias in mortality estimates in settings where the survival probability of mothers and children are correlated (e.g., due to HIV or possibly COVID-19). However, the validity of PBH is poorly understood. PBH validation studies are nested in the Bangladesh and Malawi RAMMPS. PBH is administered in the validation samples and reports of births and deaths among sisters of reproductive age will be compared to the reference datasets through individual-level comparisons using an approach that was previously used for validating FBH. These validation studies are led by Dr. Li Liu (JHU).

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Each of the five RAMMPS country case studies share broader objectives and several methodological features but also vary in terms of their sampling strategy, the survey instruments used, nested validation studies and so forth. This heterogeneity is intentional to best leverage context-specific attributes of each RAMMPS and to better understand strengths and weaknesses of different mortality mobile phone surveys methods.

IEDCR, ICDDRB, Johns Hopins University and NYU University, Abu Dhabi logos

RAMMPS Bangladesh entails collaboration with the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), a government institute that has conducted telephone interviews for maternal, child and reproductive health and noncommunicable diseases for the past five years, and the International Center for Diarrheal Diseases, Bangladesh (icddr,b) who coordinate the Matlab HDSS; an open cohort initiated in 1966 covering 142 villages in a sub-district located 55 kms south-east of the capital, Dhaka. Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and NYU University, Abu Dhabi (NYU Abu Dhabi) offer technical support.

Burkina Faso
ISSP, INSD, LSHTM and UCLouvain logos

The Burkina Faso RAMMPS is led by the Institut Supérieur des Sciences de la Population (ISSP) in collaboration with the Institut National de la Statistique et de la Démographie (INSD), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain).

Democratic Republic of the Congo
University of Kinshasa and LSHTM logos

The DRC RAMMPS is conducted as a collaboration between the University of Kinshasa School of Public Health (UNIKIN) and LSHTM. UNIKIN also hosts the PMA study in the DRC. 

Study Population

The study population for DRC RAMMPS is comprised of a targeted 15,000 adults from 18 to 65 years of age living in Kinshasa or Nord Kivu provinces.


Initial samples of phone numbers were created using a short Interactive Voice Response (IVR) survey prior to the CATI interview. The intention was to filter out non-functional numbers and elicit basic demographic information. Soon after data collection began, the sample of phone numbers was made up of numbers that had been active in Kinshasa or Nord Kivu in the last 14 days. This approach was facilitated through collaboration with Feroxus, a company based in DRC.

INE, INS and Johns Hopkins University logos

RAMMPS Mozambique is implemented by the Instituto Nacional de Estatística (INE) and the Instituto Nacional de Saúde (INS) with technical assistance from JHU. These are also the partners that manage the Countrywide Mortality Surveillance for Action (COMSA) in Mozambique.

MEIRU, IPOR, LSHTM and NY University, Abu Dhabi logos

The Malawi RAMMPS is implemented by Malawi Epidemiology and Interventions Research Unit (MEIRU), and the Institute for Public Opinion Research (IPOR), with technical support from LSHTM and NYU. MEIRU hosts the Karonga Health and Demographic Surveillance System that will be used as a validation data resource.  

Study Population

The study population for the national RAMMPS survey in Malawi will be made up of 20,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 65 years.

The Karonga Health and Demographic Surveillance System in northern Malawi will serve as the platform for the RAMMPS validation study. Mortality estimates generated through RAMMPS will be compared with HDSS estimates among a sample of 2,500 residents.


The sample of numbers given to the CATI survey team are narrowed down before being transferred. This is done through collaboration with an external company called Sample Solutions, who:

  1. will draw a simple random sample based on the numbering structure of the mobile phone providers, then will
  2. verify that the phone number is active using the Home Location Register (HLR), which contains data regarding authorized subscribers using a global system for mobile communication (GSM) core network. The sample constituted in this way is not disaggregated by any demographic characteristics or region. We have pre-defined sample quota to ensure that the sample is representative of different sub-populations.  
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Data Dashboards
Presentations and Publications
  • Masquelier B, Menashe-Oren A, Reniers G, Timæus I, Low-cost sibling methods for measuring adult mortality, 2021 International Population Conference, Dec 2021, Oral presentation
  • Menashe-Oren A,  Schlüter B,  Masquelier B & Helleringer S; Using parental survival histories in low- and middle-income countries to estimate mortality over age 50: Assessing selection bias, 2021 International Population Conference, Dec 2021, Oral presentation
  • Reniers G (on behalf of the RAMMPS Consortium), Mobile Phone Surveys for Mortality Surveillance in Settings where CRVS is Deficient, Berlin Demography Days – Global Demography Forum, 24 March 2021
  • Reniers G on behalf of the RAMMPS Consortium, The Rapid Mortality Mobile Phone Surveys (RAMMPS) Project, 2022 Population Association of America Annual Meeting, April 2022, Abstract accepted for presentation.
  • Masquelier B, Menashe-Oren A, Reniers G, An evaluation of truncated birth histories for rapid measurement of fertility and child survival, 2022 European Population Conference (summer 2022), Jul 2022, Abstract submitted.
  • Haider MM, Alam N, Bashar MI, Helleringer S, Adult death registration before and during the COVID 19 pandemic: evidence from a rural area of Bangladesh, 2022 Population Association of America Annual Meeting, April 2022, Abstract accepted for poster presentation.