Key insights from the mosquito nets campaign in Côte d’Ivoire from Sophie Chavanel, Chief of Communication, UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire, Norman Muhwezi, Innovation Specialist, UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire
There are exciting things happening in Côte d’Ivoire! U-Report Côte d’Ivoire is striking again with innovative ways to use U-Report, and this time, to support programmes’ drive for results to protect children against malaria and dengue fever.
Using innovation to save lives
Mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever are one of the principal causes of death, underweight babies, and premature births in Côte d’Ivoire. Using mosquito nets is one of the most effective methods for the prevention of malaria and dengue fever to reduce child mortality. To help fight the diseases, UNICEF supported the Ministry of Health with the help of the Global Fund, to distribute over 15 million mosquito nets in 2017.
UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire is always looking for ways to improve effectiveness and accountability by using innovative ways to eliminate the need for middlemen and get real-time feedback directly from the families we help, UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire used U-Report to raise awareness, collect data, and make grievance and redress processes — more accessible.
U-Report is a real-time messaging platform for community participation, designed to address an issue that affects children and young people by collecting information directly from them or their parents to improve policy and programmes or by directly providing life-saving information to the most vulnerable in a timely way.
“The challenge was how to provide a direct two-way communication channel in which citizens would be able to receive real-time information on the delivery and usage of these mosquito nets — while also providing a free, anonymous channel to report issues they face using it. We achieved this, through utilizing U-Report’’ explains Norman Muhwezi, Innovation Specialist at UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire.
We received reports through U-Report that: Mosquito nets were being sold.
Result: More than 89,000 people registered on U-Report and received life-saving information via SMS at no cost, while being empowered with a two-way communication tool to report inconsistencies and problems. Through U-Report, dozens of families from different communities reported how these mosquito nets were not being distributed freely but rather being sold. This is alarming — as such information was quickly escalated to the Ministry of Health who immediately took action, investigated, arrested the individuals, and recovered the mosquito nets as well as the money.
For Bruno Aholoukpe, Chief of Health for UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire, the use of U-Report during the mosquito net campaign was a great success : ‘‘It allowed us to communicate directly in real-time with health workers and beneficiaries about progress and changes in the campaign, making the information exchange instantaneous and addressing misconceptions like mosquito nets should only be used for children and for other purposes like fishing and agriculture. The experience was so successful that we used U-Report again during the national measles vaccination campaign. I can confidently say now that in Côte d’Ivoire, all health campaigns will now use U-Report as a communication, monitoring and evaluation tool.’’
A closer look: how it worked
U-Report Côte d’Ivoire supported the distribution of 15 million mosquito nets while recruiting close to 100,000 U-Reporters – how was this achieved? It is imperative to obtain government buy-in from the start of the campaign. UNICEF also organised a U-Report training for the Ministry of Health staff to explain how the tool works, the support it will provide to promote quick two-way communication platform, and in obtaining consensus (from the very beginning) on what type of data should be collected in real time.
During the first phase, a census was conducted by community health workers who asked families to register by sending a keyword – provided by trained community health workers, using free SMS or social media. This keyword prompted a set of automatic questions including demographics and information specifically on how to collect and use mosquito nets. The information collected was used to monitor the progress of the campaign and provide guidance to the Ministry of Health team in order to make informed decisions, and take action to improve the campaign’s performance. To ensure communication between field teams, the team at the Ministry, community health workers, and agents, a special contact group was also created on U-Report enabling them to share daily progress and information through SMS amongst each other.
All the families that registered on U-Report were grouped and received messages with follow up questions to ensure they were able to collect their mosquito nets during the distribution phase and understand how to use the mosquito nets on a daily basis. At the evaluation and monitoring phase, families were sent messages (SMS or social media), providing them with an opportunity to report problems such as damaged nets, illegal sale of nets, the insufficient number of nets in their community, lost ticket needed to collect the nets, and more.
In Côte d’Ivoire, U-Report is more than an SMS and social media platform. It is a movement of young people for positive change in their community. They are from all parts of Côte d’Ivoire, they can be mobilized quickly, they want to take action and be changemakers.
‘‘It is fantastic what has been happening here in Côte d’Ivoire! Young people have now started to organize themselves. They created Whatsapp groups to connect with other U-Reporters in their community. They initiate their own actions and inspire other young people to do the same. What has been done with the U-Report movement in Côte d’Ivoire is unique. It empowered young people to take positive actions, to be the change and feel that their voice is heard.’’ explains Sophie Chavanel, Chief of Communication in charge of U-Report in Côte d’Ivoire.
Their action has been noticed by the media and even private partners (e.g biggest hardware stores in the country) have supplied cleaning equipment for their activities.
Yohan Agbaléssi, 20, took part to one of those events and hopes their action will change the habits at a community level: ‘‘During the cleaning operation, many approached our group and asked why we were doing this. We explained. I hope that after our visit, the population will adopt simple actions such as not throwing garbage on the ground and doing similar cleaning operations regularly. I also hope the authorities will put measures in place to keep the community clean.’’
Supporting the mosquito net campaign and increasing awareness on the dangers of malaria and dengue fever, young people from Bouaké, Man, Korhogo, Odiénné, and Abidjan organized similar clean-up event in their community. They also did prevention work and helped share basic health and hygiene information to keep households, schools, and health centers clean, to limit the spread of potentially mortal diseases for children.
U-Report Côte d’Ivoire, is providing a platform to girls and boys across the country to raise their voices on issues, challenges, and concerns they face, and come together to build a youth movement.
James Powell, Global Coordinator for Innovation said “UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire epitomises how to make the most of innovation tools through proper integration into major programmes. It gives the community a voice and improves programme results as a consequence, and you can see the office is moving onto bigger and better integrations as a result.”
For every child, a voice.