Reducing Child Abuse With A Country Wide Approach

Reducing Child Abuse With A Country Wide Approach

The Challenge of Reducing Child Abuse

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.  The weak continue being oppressed. The situation is dire when the oppressed are children.

The VuruguMapper Initiative

Plan International, while implementing development Programs in Kilifi County, Kenya, identified that Child abuse cases were rampant. Therefore, they engaged the Poimapper team to develop a Child Abuse Case Management System. The target was to help seal 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, reporting and data tools configuration, as well as a mobile app, used to record abuse cases.

The mobile app loads a caseload form with the necessary fields to report a case. The mobile app is primarily used by Child Protection Volunteers (CPVs) and Community Health Workers (CHW) (herein referred to as users). Based on a child abuse occurrence, the user fills the caseload form and uploads the data 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 will 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 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.

Scaling Up

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 thus supports the County’s Children Department to have an effective and efficient child protection system.

The model used to implement VuruguMapper is easily replicable across other counties in Kenya.

VuruguMapper is taken up by the Department of Children Services (DCS) nationally with the intent to roll out its use across all 47 counties. DSC sees value in VuruguMapper, especially in ease of case reporting at the community level. VuruguMapper is therefore integrated into the national Child Protection Management Information System (CPMIS) which consolidates all reported child abuse cases at a national level.

Going forward, VuruguMapper forms the next-generation platform for collecting data on the wellbeing of children in Kenya in general. In addition to child protection reporting, Vurugumapper is used to collect data on the impact of Covid-19 on children. 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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Reducing Child Abuse

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