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Humanitarian Response

CommCare for Humanitarian Response Coordination Efforts

Humanitarian response organizations (HROs) reduce the harmful impacts of crises on affected populations, often requiring mobilization within days of a disaster striking. Typically, a core group of international responders join a larger number of local responders to quickly mobilize humanitarian action for those most vulnerable in the aftermath of crisis.

Rapid advances in mobile technology and expanding network coverage provide a solid platform for the development of mobile applications to quickly organize and share data during humanitarian crises. Mobile applications like CommCare for humanitarian response (mHRs) improve the efficacy of relief efforts by decreasing data entry and transfer time, in addition to facilitating information between and among relief organizations, frontline workers, and Ministries of Health. Additionally, beneficiaries can participate in relief efforts more meaningfully by sharing their input while directly receiving accurate information, resulting in a more integrative response.

Humanitarian Response Organizations

Most mHRs are developed during crises, rather than before, limiting training and evaluation. Current mHRs focus on a single functionality even though several integrated functionalities are needed. Current mHRs lack methods to allow data sharing within and between HROs, and can be inhibited by mobile network failures.

  • CommCare’s application building tools enable non-programmers to configure and deploy mobile applications with point-of-service functions, and remotely update applications instantly.
  • Applications are tailored to each HRO, using specifications of expressed needs
  • mHRs built with CommCare are interoperable via MOTECH with other tools built by HROs. This enables apps to be tested prior to a crisis, and reduces complications arising from multiple data systems that must be coordinated with different parties.
  • HIPPA compliant tools enable HROs to selectively and securely share data on protected networks.

Frontline Workers

Most mHRs have been designed by technologists rather than HROs and are not tailored to the needs of their users. Responders must juggle a number of information sources that are often poorly coordinated.

  • Combined mobile data collection, interactive SMS applications, and inventory tracking improve response coordination and service delivery.
  • Integrated, comprehensive functionality allows features to be turned on or off (e.g. cash transfer programs, preparedness training, beneficiary feedback systems).
  • Methods for sharing data between users off of local servers (e.g. “hastily formed networks” on local Wi-Fi or SD card transfer) enable use while domestic mobile networks are down.
  • Data collection on mobile applications can continue outside of network coverage, and will automatically sync with a cloud-server once connectivity is available.
  • Integrated map-based visualization leverages third party applications, better enabling responders to identify when and where activities are taking place in real-time.
  • Built-in QR code reader compatibility enables tagged lab results to be input automatically.
  • Point-of-service functionalities in mobile applications for post-crisis sustain efforts after immediate response has been carried out (e.g. case tracking, decision support, and embedded multimedia for counseling).

Beneficiaries Affected by Crisis

People affected by a crisis relying on a humanitarian response frequently lack information on services available. Family reunification is stalled due to difficulties in communication between shelters.

  • In areas of network connectivity, beneficiaries can interact with coordinated response servers to find whereabouts of family and friends.
  • Mass messaging from HROs to beneficiaries can ensure beneficiaries receive accurate information on where to seek help and shelter, resulting in an automated, efficient information sharing network.
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