Reducing Child Abuse With A Country Wide Approach
Exposure to violence at a young age can result in risky behaviours and greater susceptibility to lifelong social, emotional, and cognitive problems. Often pre-existing social norms make violence a taboo subject. Therefore many incidents go unreported. Some may even feel that violence in the communities are not important enough to warrant reporting.
Fear of stigmatization, lack of trusted reporting mechanisms, and obliviousness are reasons why violence reporting is low in many communities. Without a trusted, accessible, and responsive reporting system, violence in the communities continues to thrive and the weak continue being oppressed. The situation is dire when the oppressed are children.
Plan International, while implementing development Programs in Kilifi County, Kenya, identified that Child abuse cases were rampant. The Poimapper team was engaged to develop a Child Abuse Case Management System with the aim of sealing the gaps within the chain of child abuse reporting from occurrence to prosecution. As a result, VuruguMapper (Violence Mapper) was developed. VuruguMapper consists of a web portal (for user management, reports generation, data tools configuration) and a mobile app (for case capture).
The mobile app loads a caseload form with the necessary fields to report a case. It is primarily used by Child Protection Volunteers (CPVs) and Community Health Workers (CHW) (herein referred to as users). In the event that there is a child protection issue in the community such as neglect, abandonment, assault, defilement etc, the user fills the caseload form and uploads the case to a central database. Depending on the nature of the case reported, an SMS with information on what action to take is sent to the user. For example, if it’s a sexual abuse case, the information pack would remind the user how to preserve evidence by e.g., not washing the child . After a case has been uploaded, the children’s department designated persona (Sub-County Children’s Officer – SCCO) receives an SMS notification to verify the reported case. Upon verification, an SMS notification with the action taken by the SCCO is sent back to the user who reported the case.
If the reported case requires the attention of a hospital such as in sexual abuse cases, a summary of the case is sent to the local hospital, for necessary action towards that case. Similarly, if the case requires the attention of police, a summary of the case is sent to the County police office, and the Department of Public Prosecutor (DPP).
The system makes use of SMS triggers to escalate whenever a case is not updated within a set duration of time. This continues until the case is closed by an authorized person with an appropriate explanation. Whenever an update is done on the case by either the police, hospital, DPP, or SCCO, an SMS with an updated summary is sent to the user who reported the case. This ensures the user is always aware of updates and can inform the parents or guardians of the case progress.
The reporting features on the web portal for data visualization are used for analysis and drawing insights from the captured data.
Due to its easy reporting and comprehensive feedback loop, this initiative has strengthened child protection structures, and procedures at family, school, community, and duty bearer (government) level. The fact that it relies on existing community-based child protection structures, boosts the accountability mechanisms in the child protection processes. The use of a mobile app for reporting leverages Kenya’s fast-growing mobile technology penetration. Overall, it supports timely and efficient ways of child protection case reporting from the community level.
The model used to implement VuruguMapper is easily replicable across other counties in Kenya. VuruguMapper has now been taken up by Kenya’s Directorate of Children Services (DCS) under the Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes with the intent to roll out its use across all 47 counties. Currently VuruguMapper with support from Plan International Kenya has been rolled out in four counties namely Kilifi, Kwale, Mombasa and Nairobi. The DSC sees value in VuruguMapper, especially in its ease of case reporting at the community level. VuruguMapper has been integrated with the Child Protection Management Information System (CPMIS) which is the larger system consolidating all child protection cases at a national level.
Going forward, VuruguMapper forms the next-generation platform for community level case reporting. The opportunities for improving the wellbeing of children with more comprehensive, timely, and reliable reporting in Kenya and other African countries are endless.
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