RapidPro helps ensure COVID-19 orphans receive care in Indonesia

Connecting children with integrated child welfare services

UNICEF EAPRO, Technology for Development section
Three girls posing for a photo at their home in Indonesia
07 July 2022

7-year-old Afiqa misses her mother terribly since COVID-19 claimed her life a few months ago. After returning from school she often retreats and spends long hours watching family videos with her mother’s voice. “She even forbids us from deleting a video of her mother’s last hours of life,” says Afiqa’s father Eko, who works as a parking attendant at a nearby restaurant where his late wife also worked. At 14, Afiqa’s older sister Keysha has had to take on more responsibility in caring for her two younger sisters. Having witnessed her parents’ hardship during the pandemic, she believes that people should be vaccinated against COVID-19.

This heightened sense of responsibility is also felt by 16-year-old Bagus. After both his parents died of COVID-19 only a few weeks apart, he and his 7-year-old brother Fadlan went to live with their eldest sister Wiji, 25, her husband Ridwan, and their two daughters aged 1 and 3. “Fadlan is very creative and forever making things with his hands,” says Bagus while pointing to the miniature trucks and vehicles his brother has assembled from everyday objects. “But he is very sensitive. He rarely speaks, not even to me. He keeps everything inside.” According to Januri, the Ministry of Social Affairs-supported social worker who regularly comes to visit, Fadlan’s greatest fear is being taken away from his home. “He was very attached to his mother and losing his father so shortly afterwards was the final straw,” Januri says. “The last thing he needs is another change, another uncertainty.”

Fadlan and Bagus with their sister’s family.
Fadlan and Bagus with their sister’s family.

Fadlan, Bagus, Afiqa, and Keysha are among the more than 35,800 children orphaned by COVID-19 in Indonesia since March 2022 and identified with the hekp of RapidPro, an open-source platform used by the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection. RapidPro is a digital public good used by UNICEF and its partners to allow for real time monitoring and messaging using SMS or social media platforms. Social workers, like Januri, use RapidPro on their mobile devices to submit reports whenever they encounter children orphaned by COVID-19. These reports are mapped and visualized in a dedicated dashboard to assist in decision-making, case management and targeted support.

Identifying and monitoring orphans allows social workers to connect them with integrated child welfare services and provide them with recreational kits containing toys and supplies. One of UNICEF’s current priorities is to support social workers like Januri to carry out this important task. With many orphaned children facing challenging circumstances, they will need to monitor the mental and physical health of children in their present living arrangements, as well as the continued ability of their family to care for them.

The data-flow via RapidPro
UNICEF Indonesia
The data-flow via RapidPro

I Made Suwancita, UNICEF Indonesia’s Technology for Development Specialist, says that RapidPro is the ideal tool to do this. “We have used RapidPro since 2015 for real time data collection and monitoring during vaccination campaigns and emergency response. This experience made it a logical choice to use RapidPro to support the Ministries of Social Affairs and Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection in their efforts to identify COVID-19 orphans. The use of WhatsApp and SMS make it very user-friendly for our stakeholders, like social or health workers. Because it is open-source we can link it to other tools, like Ona, to provide real time data analysis and visualization, which is very much appreciated by our government partners.”

Bintang Puspayoga, Minister Women Empowerment and Child Protection, and Debora Comini, Former UNICEF Indonesia Representative
Bintang Puspayoga, Minister Women Empowerment and Child Protection, and Debora Comini, Former UNICEF Indonesia Representative (currently UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific)

In October 2021 the Minister of Women Empowerment and Child Protection, Bintang Puspayoga, expressed the government’s recognition of the work done by UNICEF to help identify children orphaned by COVID-19 in Indonesia. The Minister encouraged local governments to continue using RapidPro to identify COVID-19 orphans, so that recreational kits and child support services can be prioritized and delivered where they are needed most.