By: Selena Bajraktarevic, Zurine Cadena Jimenez, and Raquel Wexler
Three-quarters of Palestinians use social media networks, and the percentage of persons 10 years and above who use these networks reaches 75% of internet users. As the prevalence of households with smartphones in Palestine has become more ubiquitous, with smartphone coverage reaching 51% in 2014, mobile communication is seen as a novel and efficient way to derive and track information and data on families with children with developmental delays and disabilities and provision of ECD services to the most vulnerable young children
In the State of Palestine, more than one-third of children with disabilities are out of school and less than half (44%) are enrolled in regular education. The prevalence of social stigma related to disability remains high, and more than one-third of children surveyed said they avoided participating in community life because of discriminatory attitudes.
As part of a UNICEF initiative to support real-time monitoring systems strengthening through RapidPro in 11 countries, the State of Palestine Office is using of RapidPro as a Digital Monitoring solution with a focus on the early detection of children with developmental delays and disabilities and provision of early intervention services. The digital platform is being used to strengthen the national inter-ministerial Early Childhood Development (ECD) system led by the Ministry of Social Development, in close collaboration with the National ECD Committee which includes the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and other stakeholders such as UNRWA and NGOs. The RapidPro platform has been re-branded “Qudurati” (My Abilities) by the inter-ministerial RapidPro Steering Committee in the State of Palestine.
In the State of Palestine, RapidPro as a Digital Monitoring solution will be used for the following:
- Monitor early detection of children with developmental delays and disabilities in selected healthcare centers, nurseries and kindergartens
- Set up a database of Children with Disabilities (CWDs) accessing the selected facility healthcare centers
- Provide information to healthcare providers on families of children with developmental delays and disabilities
- Provide information to parents of young children, including CWDs, on healthy early child development, early stimulation and care
- Engage community members in building a supportive environment for CWDs
- A Knowledge, Attitude, and Practice mobile survey will be conducted at the end of the initiative to assess the influence of the use of real-time monitoring on parenting knowledge and skills and inform scale
Qudurati is being piloted in two districts in the West Bank ( Yatta and Jericho) that have been selected based on the government’s decision to scale up innovative Early Childhood Development and Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services. Additionally, the results of the child disability survey, “Every Child Counts” conducted by UNICEF, shows that these locations had the highest number of families of children with disabilities and multi-disabilities within one family.
The Qudurati initiative is enabling the development of a database on families with children with developmental delays and disabilities, which will ensure better programming of ECD and ECI interventions and targeting the most vulnerable families with young children.
It will also support the development of a joint platform for real-time multisectoral response of health, social and education sectors in the provision of integrated and needs-based interventions including follow up for the most vulnerable families with children with disabilities. In addition, the use of RapidPro as a Digital Monitoring tool will support families to access information on early childhood development and positive parenting
“The strong buy-in we are seeing from our government partners is exciting,” said Genevieve Boutin, Special Representative for the State of Palestine Office noted. She continued, “We hope to build on the successful implementation in 2 pilot locations to leverage resources from development partners and, eventually, implement the RapidPro tool to support the provision of integrated services to other vulnerable groups in Palestine”.
Selena Bajraktarevic, Chief Health and Nutrition further commented, “Through the use of the real-time monitoring platform (Qudurati), for the first time community representatives and families with children with disabilities are participating in the planning and programming of ECD and ECI interventions. Based on continued consultation with families with children with disabilities, ECD and ECI interventions are being created and their implementation will be jointly monitored, evaluated and revised with national partners.”
Good progress made with local partners
Late June 2018, more than 30 government and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) staff convened for a workshop delivered by Middle East and North Africa Regional Office (MENARO) and the Office of Innovation, to kick-start the design and implementation of the use of the RapidPro platform, and its incorporation in national ECD systems. Those trained included an interdisciplinary group of programme and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) specialists from the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, and UNRWA- West Bank. An initial prototype was produced and tested during training and partners are now working on developing the actual flow of messages to beneficiaries and services providers that will be employed in RapidPro.
Following six months of country implementation, the State of Palestine has made good progress, having established planning teams at the district levels of Jericho and Yatta, conducted two community sensitization mobilization campaigns on RapidPro with more than 40 participants from relevant sectors, non-governmental organisations, and chief security officers, and developed of a communication action plan. Negotiations with a mobile network operator aggregator are underway and a contract with Nyaruka to provide hosting services has been raised.
Some early challenges to implementation identified by the SoP office include limited country capacity for aggregator services. An emerging good practice identified was the active participation of local government representatives in the development of the RapidPro platform and its adaptation to Qudurati. One early lesson learned has been the need to directly engage the families of children with disabilities in the planning phase, which will now be considered as government partners move forward. Following this early experience, all four government partners have expressed interest in using RapidPro for Digital Monitoring for various services.
Speaking of the importance of real-time monitoring for the national inter-ministerial ECD system, Mr. Breigheith Breigheith, national RapidPro manager and Director of Nurseries of the Ministry of Social Development said, “the immediate reply of parents and caregivers will enable the Ministry to provide an immediate response, especially when triggered by a RapidPro flow [query]. This trigger will immediately allow the family to get in touch with a frontline responder, who will provide ECD-related aid or guidance to the family.”
For more information on the scale-up initiative contact:
UNICEF State of Palestine Office: Selene Bajraktarevic, sbajraktarevic [at] unicef [dot] org MENA Regional Office: Lillian Luanda, lluanda [at] unicef [dot] org
For UNICEF headquarter queries, please contact: Raquel Wexler, UNICEF Office of Innovation rwexler [at] unicef [dot] org.