South Sudan: Technology is changing all spheres of life, including humanitarian interventions. In South Sudan, UNHCR is using satellite imagery, interactive mapping, digital fingerprinting and text messaging to strengthen refugee protection, help the most vulnerable and reach out to refugees in urban areas.
UNHCR is conducting the first biometric registration exercise in South Sudan using digital fingerprinting technology. The nearly 200,000 refugees had been registered in standard databases, but biometrics will help to identify refugees more quickly so they can receive better assistance.
UNHCR is simultaneously using the process to update information on special needs such as female-headed households, pregnant or lactating women, or malnourished children. In this way protection staff can quickly identify and meet the needs of the most vulnerable in a camp made up of more than 70 percent women and children.
The team is also recording a new piece of data: the refugees” addresses. UNHCR has recently been working with its NGO partner ACTED to take GPS coordinates to map Yida settlement. Each structure or tent is being entered into the map.
Maps and addresses are linked to UNHCR”s database, providing a wealth of information through interactive technology. These newly designed interactive maps enable humanitarian workers to find out much more about the camp population than the location of each shelter as the data base links up geographic and demographic data down to household level.
“Now, mapping a problem is just a mouse click away,” says Emilie Poisson, ACTED Country Director for South Sudan.
“Let me give you an example: previously, if the clinic noted an increase in patients with a certain disease all we had were the absolute figures Now, we can detect the causes by analysing the map. Does the disease spread in a certain community, around a specific latrine, in families with school children? Such information helps us to intervene faster and in a more targeted way,” says Poisson.
With the help of interactive maps, services for the most vulnerable refugees can be improved. Where are the older and sick people located? How far do they have to go to get water, reach a clinic or carry food from delivery points? Have relief items been distributed to all households? Are children from certain camp areas under-represented in camp schools?