A basic requirement in any emergency is the need for real time information – both from populations affected and also for them. This includes information about where to get help, how to act and whom to contact. Responding to the Ebola emergency is no different: how do people obtain the vital information they need?
UNICEF’s U-report system enables young people to access vital information and services using a simple mobile phone (one that can send and receive text messages and phone calls).
A simple solution to connect young people to resources can be a vital tool in a country like Liberia, where massive infrastructure deficits prevent information from moving. U-report provides young people access to basic information on Ebola prevention and on services available near them. It also allows the aggregation of this information, so that youth groups or others at a national level can see the trends most important to their peers.
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But in order to be effective, systems like U-report need to resonate with local communities, which means they need to be adapted locally. The technology is the easy part – the hard part is making a system like this work the way people do. In Liberia, U-report has been adapted and built up with the support of some of the greatest and most persistent problem solvers in the country – a group of adolescent girls in the West Point neighborhood of Monrovia.