U-Report in Nigeria Hits 529197 Users

Jean Gough

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MORE than half a million people in Nigeria are now using the U-Report initiative by UNICEF to get information on health related issues while the global record is now one million.

U-Report, UNICEF’s groundbreaking, text-message based innovation that amplifies the voices and views of young people in developing countries, has reached 1 million active users globally.

In Nigeria, the U-Report recorded 529,197 users. U-Report has been engaging with Nigerians on issues such as early marriage, water and sanitation, and safety in schools. During the Ebola outbreak last year, U-Report was used to spread information that helped to dispel rumors and increase the community’s awareness during the response.

U-Report is reaching young people through the National Youth Service Corps, as well as community based organisations and the media; by the end of this year, UNICEF’s U-Report platform aims to have at least one million responders in Nigeria. With the new government and its call for accountability and community engagement, U-Report is an opportunity to contribute towards nation building in Nigeria. As the number of U-Reporters increases in Nigeria, UNICEF and other U-Report partners will be engaging with political leaders and decision makers, up to the highest level.

U-Report also has very practical applications. In three states – FCT, Niger and Nasarawa, U-Report is testing a system to gather information about immunisation stocks and equipment at health facilities. Through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, health workers are asked simple questions about whether there are sufficient vaccines in stock to last through the next week and whether the refrigerators used to store the vaccines to keep them safe and effective are running at the correct temperatures. This is an efficient way of keeping track of critical and life-saving information and the pilot will soon be expanded.

According to United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, thanks to the participation and support of telecommunications companies, it is completely free to take part in U-Report.

U-Report started out as a local innovation to help young Ugandans engage on issues that affect their lives and futures. Today, young U-reporters from 15 countries, mostly in Africa, are using it every day to voice their opinions, connect to their leaders, and help change the conditions in their communities,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

To become a U-Reporter, users equipped with even basic mobile phones text the word “join” to a toll-free short-code. Within moments, they can share their opinions on everything from the job skills they want to the best way to tackle epidemics. This information is instantly mapped and analyzed, yielding vital information and real-time insights about how young people see their world and what they think is most important. In turn, these aggregated views are used by development partners in their advocacy with governments — and even shared directly with elected leaders.

For example, every Member of Parliament in Uganda has signed up for U-Report to monitor and respond to what young people in their districts are saying about key issues. Some leaders have used it to strengthen immunization and other health campaigns.

“U-Report is an entirely new model for engaging young people, empowering communities, and holding governments more accountable,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, where the platform is helping UNICEF workers share critical information about Ebola, polio, and newborn care with families living in remote areas that health workers cannot easily reach.

More young people in a growing number of countries are joining U-Report every month, and UNICEF is working to scale up this and other innovations to reach the world’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

— Aug 3, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT

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