“U-report has become the easiest and fastest way of conveying messengers to the community members in the refugee camp”, concludes Maureen Achia, who works as a child protection officer with Save the Children-Uganda and also doubles as the U-report focal person in Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement. The settlement is located in Western Uganda’s Kamwenge District and is now home to over 50,000 Congolese refugees. The settlement was re-opened in 2012 to handle the high number of refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo.
U-report is an SMS system that allows members of the public and refugees to express opinions and report on the situation around them. The real-time data monitoring system has been used to identify emergency situations, poll political opinion and understand cultural and societal attitudes towards development issues.
There are more than 280 U-reporters in the settlement, both refugee community and child protection officers from various implementing partners including United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and GOAL. The number of U-reporters continues to grow, reports Maureen, “U-report is a really good thing”.
Recent success stories include; a mother who gave birth to triplets and found herself in dire need of medical assistance shortly after delivery. A concerned neighbor, enrolled as a U-reporter sends a quick message to 8500 that’s spotted and help dispatched shortly. “Thanks to the recently installed U-report dashboard system”, explains Maureen, “I was able to pick up the message in real time and call for an ambulance.” Today, both the mother and the babies are healthy and safe!
A unique dashboard that provides exclusive interface to inbound SMSs in both English & Kiswahili was developed draws on IBM Analytics methodology. This unique angle to the dashboard means all incoming texts are categorized substantially accurately all the while tagged to the district and specific village. This allows for fairly quicker identification of actionable cases. Other functions include ability to poll, replying to individual ‘unsolicited’ texts as well as forward the actionable cases to fitting implementing partners.
The above success story and numerous others continue to illustrate that U-report has revolutionised rapid response to dire refugee community and individual cases. UNICEF, implementing partners and other agencies now has the unique ability to have a ‘real-time’ sense of topics and issues trending in settlement camps.