Haiti

U-Report helps reduce violence in COVID-19 pandemic

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© UNICEF Haiti/2020/Edler

Launched in Haiti in 2019 by UNICEF with financial support from Canada, U-Report currently has more than 28,000 subscribers across the country

Jean Panel Fanfan

Launched in Haiti in 2019 by UNICEF with financial support from Canada, U-Report currently has more than 28,000 subscribers across the country. It is a powerful tool as young people have frequent access to a phone. During COVID-19 lockdown, U-Report helps increase understanding of violence against children in the home.

15-year-old Anne Jensley, sitting in the yard of her home, has her eyes riveted on her phone. She is very focused. It's a hot Thursday morning, she's home - schools are still closed(July 2020) - with her family. Outside, we hear the noise of vehicles and people. Nothing can distract her. Anne responds to the latest U-Report survey on violence against children and takes her time to answer questions. She has been a registered U-Reporter since the launching in 2019. She receives short surveys on her phone and provides answers according to her opinion.

Stress, related to the pandemic, is likely to increase use of violence particularly against children, who are the most vulnerable. Hence, the importance of U-Report polls to collect views from young people and make use of the information to promote better protection and positive change for children.

“I have received a lot of interesting polls. I just received a survey on violence, which makes me think about how children are possibly subjected to more violence during lockdown due to COVID-19,” she said. For her, this is a good poll, especially during this period, because it is more difficult to go out and we’re forced to stay at home with one another. “There are people who express themselves through violence, to be heard. I think this poll can show people how to be aware of this and how to choose other responses other than violence,” she adds.

Anne Jensley often promotes U-Report by encouraging young people in her neighborhood to sign up to participate and to receive reliable information on COVID-19. In a small group, with everyone wearing masks, she explains to those who have not yet signed up the benefits of U-Report. It is a tool accessible to anyone if they have a phone and is available through the country's two mobile phone operators.

“COVID-19 really affected my activities: school, Scouts and meetings up with my friends. I like being active and doing a lot of things at the same time. But staying at home every day? I am bored, "said Jovani Edwin, a 21-year-old U-Reporter and a friend of Anne. Another member of the group, Lormane Kelly, says he had no idea what U-Report was. It was while chatting with friends that he learned about it. So, he signed up quickly. " I’m happy to know there are people managing U-Report along with local and national authorities who take into consideration the views of young people through U-Report," he said.

U-Report is free which operates via SMS and is made available to young Haitians to express themselves on issues regarding them and their community. The tool helps to collect opinions on important topics such as child protection, health, education, water, hygiene and sanitation, to name a few. Funded by Canada, U-Report Haiti encourages young people to be active and to get involved for the betterment of the community.

For Emmanuel Charles, Technology for Development officer at UNICEF, U-Report is useful in improving the condition of communities, empowering young people and reducing violence against children in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. “As soon as the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the country, we used U-Report to launch awareness-raising messages about the virus and surveys to find out if young people knew the hygiene and prevention methods such as wearing of masks. We also insisted on the prevention of violence at home during lockdown, ”he said.

In Haiti, more than 28,000 young people have signed up with U-Report in one year and a half. Thanks to this tool, young people learned about the risk of violence against children in their homes, due to the stress and frustration associated with COVID-19, how to access help and ways for preventing violence.