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Transforming Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Services Through Innovative Mobile Technology

Elliot McBride, Innovations Coordinator, UNICEF Pakistan

An innovative SMS-based technology is revolutionising delivery of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services by giving beneficiaries a voice in humanitarian interventions that affect them, allowing them to become active participants in their own development. 

© UNICEF/Pakistan/AsadZaidi
RapidPro, an emerging innovation deployed globally, uses real time information to engage with beneficiaries using SMS. UNICEF Pakistan uses RapidPro in its WASH interventions to send and receive survey information to and from communities affected by emergencies like floods and earthquakes.  These beneficiaries are often at the highest risk of contamination and poor sanitation.  RapidPro allows beneficiaries to provide timely feedback on the quality and relevance of contents of a kit aimed at improving hygiene practices at critical times during these emergencies.

Feedback from beneficiaries has provided useful insights on the effectiveness of the hygiene kit allowing for adjustments to be made to revise and redesign hygiene kits for future emergencies.  For example, feedback on a menstrual hygiene cloth contained in the kit received negative results as beneficiaries displayed a lack of clarity on the cloth’s practicality or understanding of its usage. This information has led to the need to improve the cloth and strengthen education of menstrual hygiene management among targeted beneficiaries during emergencies. 

Prior to this innovation, attaining information on whether hygiene kits had reached their intended location or receiving beneficiaries’ feedback on user experience was limited to discussions with sample groups of beneficiaries and written surveys. Not only does RapidPro address these gaps by providing information on beneficiary satisfaction and kit effectiveness, the high penetration of mobile phone coverage allows it to reach higher numbers of beneficiaries.

UNICEF Pakistan has since begun applying RapidPro to monitor access and use of WASH services in urban slums and hopes to use the system in its other interventions.



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