The situation in the Central African Republic is very insecure. Everyday reports on attacks, fighting, assaults and murders arrive on the desks of the numerous NGOs working in the country. The Danish Refugee Council has established a hotline in Bangui, where people can call for free and report any abuses, human rights violations or security incidents.
Four people are sitting in a room answering calls from the citizens of the Central African Republic, which on a daily base experiences gross and widespread human rights violations. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has established a 24 hour free hotline where people call in and report abuses. The hotline has been a huge success on a terrible background with more than 2,000 calls each month. “Most of the calls are from the capital Bangui, but people are calling in from all over the country. We fill out a form for each call which goes into our database. Then we have an overview of the number of assaults reported, where they are happening and which kind of violations we are dealing with. The data is then shared with our protection team and the protection cluster in order to ensure that we have the full overview of incidents,” says Olivier David, Country Director for DRC CAR.
All in all there are 14 counselors working in shifts to make sure that the hotline is always staffed and ready to answer the calls. The staff has different backgrounds, thereby ensuring they can answer also if the caller is talking a local language. The staff is either lawyers or people used to dealing with psycho social projects/support, and thereby making sure they are well equipped at offering the needed counseling.
“We get around 2,000 calls each month and about 400 of these are direct incidents. The rest is different kind of information that people want to share with us, which is also very helpful in our work. The reported incidents can be rape, sexual violence, injuries, murder, violence or robbery. We then make sure that the victims are informed about the location of the service provider they may need, like a hospital or another NGO that can deal with the case – and then we follow up on the case to make sure that it properly handled till its closure,” Olivier David says.
The hotline was launched in August 2013 and the number of calls has grown ever since. One of the most important things is to make sure that people who see or experience the violations know about the hotline and feel comfortable calling in and reporting it.
“We are constantly expanding our communication and making sure that as many as possible know about the hotline's existence. At the moment we are sending out text messages to increase awareness about the hotline among youth. Additionally, we need to make sure that people trust us when they call the hotline. We ask for the witnesses to identify themselves and it is of course of utmost importance that they feel safe when calling the hotline. We are a well-known and well established NGO in CAR and this helps us a lot in this sense,” Olivier David says.
DRC has worked in CAR since 2007, upon request by the UN. DRC works with protection of the many displaced persons. Additionally DRC works with social cohesion, education, livelihood, WASH and shelter. Since the eruption of the latest crisis in the fall of 2013, DRC has heavily upscaled its emergency intervention in the crisis torn country. DRC works to improve the living conditions of the population by supplying food, Non Food Items, Shelter, displacement camps management (CCCM), clean drinking water and proper sanitary facilities.