Mobile phone based interventions save lives in Kasai

Photo: ActionAid
Zimbabwe team
Communications Focal Person

I am the Communications Focal Person for ActionAid Zimbabwe.

Mobile phone based protection interventions in the Grand Kasai area have ensured quick dissemination of sexual gender based violence (SGBV) information saving thousands of female lives affected by a conflict that hit the Kasai region, central Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

In a bid to promote fast, efficient and timely emergency responses, ActionAid is harnessing technology and has provided smart phones to social protection volunteers, paralegals, monitors and some members of the National Congolese Police.

Dorcas Bitangilayi (22), a protection monitor from Miabi Territory Kasai Oriental province says :

I use a smart phone supplied by ActionAid to send text messages to ActionAid Protection Officer using a digital application that does not require airtime to send updates on SGBV. I don’t have to go to ActionAid offices which are far from my community. My village is 30km away from ActionAid offices.  I also send the information I gather to the police who were also supplied with the digital phones by ActionAid.

Dorcas uses the same phone to make urgent calls to the police and the ActionAid Protection Officer on cases of sexual assault.

Some of the issues Dorcas handles include SGBV which continues to affect woman even after the situations seems to be calm. She also makes reports on gender based violence taking place in the homes of the internally displaced persons (IDP) community.

“I also use the phone for my own transactions, such as receiving mobile money and buying airtime,” said Dorcas. She however said the only challenge with the digital mobile application has been network problems and this is when she resorts to calling, however using her own resources. A teacher by profession but not employed, Dorcas finds it fulfilling to assist the communities affected by conflict in the Kasai, being a resident of the community herself.

“I have reported over 10 cases of SGBV affecting women even after the war. I find the phone very handy when it comes to SGBV,” said Dorcas. 

Other than using the phone to transmit information on SGBV and domestic GBV, she also uses the phone to conduct community focus group discussions on identifying the needs of the people affected by conflict. She documents the information on the smart phone for sending to the ActionAid Protection Officer. The officer then shares this information with other stakeholders such as the police, hospitals, other non-governmental organisations in the area and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).  Some of the needs she has identified include food, health and psychosocial support.

Dorcas is among the 130 volunteers, paralegals and monitors who received smart phones for use in the dissemination of information on the welfare of those displaced by the Kasai conflict. In addition, 35 smart phones with the same digital application to disseminate and receive information, were distributed to the police in the Kasai community. This was to ensure that the police are also able to receive the information coming from volunteers, paralegals and monitors, all working together to protect the communities affected by conflict, as part of ActionAid’s many interventions in this region.

To improve the mobility of those working to supporting the people displaced by war, ActionAid distributed 120 bicycles to volunteers, paralegals and the police. They were also trained on how to assist survivors of SGBV and on using the mobile data application.

 Since October 2017, ActionAid has supported over 26,450 people in the two provinces of the Grand Kasai Region, namely Kasai Central and Oriental as part of the organisation’s response to the conflict with funding support from UNHCR.

The conflict in the Kasai area is believed to have started following the death of a traditional leader Kamuina Nsapu in Dibaya area, causing the mass displacement of over one million people.