Blog post

Giving a voice to those affected by conflict

Article published via OCHA CAR digital SitRep

In the Central African Republic, 3.1 million people need humanitarian assistance and protection. Of these, 2.2 million people have needs that are so complex and severe, their physical and mental well-being is at risk. Evaluations and assessments conducted by humanitarian organizations help to determine the scale of people’s needs, understand those needs, and define response plans. To develop appropriate, community-based programmes, humanitarian actors also collect feedback from affected communities on the assistance they have received. This feedback is crucial, as it places affected people at the centre of humanitarian response. Assistance can then be adjusted and improved, wherever needed.

A cross-cutting issue

As part of the Intercluster Coordination Group (ICCG), the Working Group on Accountability to Affected People (AAP) ensures the establishment and monitoring of collective mechanisms for community engagement and accountability to affected communities. The Working Group produces regular analyses of feedback, complaints, and requests for information from affected people with the aim of identifying trends in satisfaction, priority needs, and preventing the spread of misinformation. The Working Group then advises humanitarian partners through national and regional coordination mechanisms on appropriate actions to take in response to feedback from communities. Where to find assistance? Where to complain if you have been harmed while receiving humanitarian assistance? Where to find the right information? How is humanitarian action perceived in affected communities? These are some of the questions the AAP Working Group helps to answer.

Humanitarian partners have established information and feedback centres at sites for internally displaced people (IDP) in Bria, Kaga-Bandoro and Bambari, all located in central CAR. In so-called ‘listening clubs’, through kiosks selling movies and music, and via interactive radio programmes in Bria, Bambari, Kaga-Bandoro, Bangassou, Obo and Zémio, specially trained staff collect information from communities and in return, provide these communities with information that can save lives. Various assessments carried out this year have shown that people in general, as well as beneficiaries of humanitarian assistance, feel that they are not sufficiently informed about humanitarian assistance, the criteria to receive assistance and access to humanitarian services (Multisectoral Needs Assessment 2021).

Improving feedback and complaint mechanisms

In September 2021, the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) automated the interagency common feedback and complaints mechanisms led by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with the NGO Intersos at an IDP site in Bria, Haute-Kotto Prefecture. Located in eastern CAR, the IDP site – known as PK3 – is home to the country's largest displaced population of nearly 39,000 people (Population Movement Commission, September 2021). Utilizing customer relationship management software also used in the banking sector, trained agents confidentially record complaints and feedback from displaced people on tablets connected to the internet. The information is then automatically transmitted to the humanitarian organisations concerned by the feedback or complaint, significantly speeding up the process. In the past, such processes were carried out manually, for example with notes deposited in suggestion boxes, which limited the feedback mechanism to those who could write and restricted the timeliness of responses.

The ETC has also installed five telephone booths at the IDP site in Bria to allow people affected by the crisis to communicate with their families and to call humanitarian helplines free of charge. Mobile phones are the main means of contact for displaced families. On average, one in five displaced people own a mobile phone, according to an ETC assessment, while four in 10 displaced people pay to make calls. Charging stations for mobile phones have also been set up by the ETC at the PK3 site in Bria that can be used free of charge. By promoting free and safe access to mobile communications, these services provide critical access to information for affected people. In Bria, half of the population faces barriers to receiving information, particularly due to the lack of a radio or a telephone (Multisectoral Needs Assessment 2021).

Further efforts

While displaced people at the PK3 site in Bria now have access to information at their fingertips as well as opportunities to provide feedback on humanitarian assistance, this is not yet the case in other parts of CAR. Staff to support common feedback mechanisms are gradually being trained and infrastructure put in place by the humanitarian community, based on lessons learned and using available resources.