infoasaid/Save the Children Pilot Communications Project: A Learning Review


  1. Introduction

“We are illiterate and we realize that information is a powerful tool. Though we are still illiterate now, I can say we are far better than before because of the radio programme.” (Male livestock trader, Lafaley) “We really benefited as a community (from these phones). You cannot imagine how such a small thing has helped us. You know, we are marginalized as we do not have a chief or a councillor. SC is now our saviour.” (Women’s group, Meygag)

In 2011, the Horn of Africa suffered a severe drought and famine following two consecutive seasons of significantly below-average rainfall. In Kenya, the Long Rains Season Assessment conducted by the Government’s Food Security Steering Group estimated that 3.75 million people required food and non-food assistance in August 2011. Wajir County was one of the worst hit by the drought.

Save the Children (SC) provides direct or indirect humanitarian assistance to an estimated 199,471 people in Wajir East and 93,667 in Wajir South. The programme aims for the improvement of and access to health facilities, the protection and improvement of the nutritional status of beneficiaries, and improved food security and livelihoods of beneficiaries through community management structures and social protection.

The organization faces numerous challenges in disseminating and receiving information: the areas of operation are vast, the road infrastructure is poor, numerous security alerts limit travel, mobile network coverage is spotty, and the population is largely illiterate and mobile.

In December 2011, infoasaid and SC launched an innovative communications project utilizing mass communication platforms - mobile phones, FrontlineSMS software, and community radio - whose overall goal was to improve the quality of humanitarian assistance delivered by SC in Wajir. This goal would be realized by:

  • Providing communities with critical, timely, and practical information that could help them in their daily lives;
  • Increasing engagement between SC and drought-affected communities.

Underlying the project’s design was a shared belief that communication is an aid-deliverable in its own right. By providing communities with vital information, and enabling them to seek information in turn, submit feedback, and interact with humanitarian organizations, communication can help communities become greater participants in their own recovery process.

“These are people you are working with, beneficiaries that you are serving, who you are accountable to. They are your constituents. When you are doing this service you are someone in power with a resource or information. Accountability demands that you use this power responsibly, and that means opening a two way channel of feedback, putting mechanisms in place so that you can respond to the beneficiaries. This is about building relationships and making your programmes more efficient. It’s really a big thing. It’s an important issue.” (SC staff, Wajir)

The following document presents the findings of an infoasaid learning review conducted between 22 and 30 October 2012 which examined the implementation and results of an eight-month pilot communications project implemented in Wajir County. The learning review seeks primarily to contribute to the sector’s understanding of whether/how communicating with crisis-affected communities affects the quality of humanitarian assistance. The review looks at the successes and challenges of the implementation process in order to provide useful information for humanitarians interested in establishing similar communications projects. Lastly, it is hoped that the findings will enhance learning and support SC to sustain its communication with the drought-affected population of Wajir County.