IsraAID developing SMS chatbot to support prevention and response to Gender-Based Violence in South Sudan

IsraAID, Israel’s leading global non-governmental humanitarian aid organization, is developing an innovative chatbot to facilitate the prevention of and response to gender-based violence (GBV) in South Sudan. Dubbed “AnenaSawa”, meaning “we are with you”, the SMS chatbot will help community workers better track and handle disclosures of gender-based violence, while maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of survivors. This project is funded and supported by Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) program, through their GBV Tech Innovation Challenge, with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The tool will be developed by the IsraAID digital technology and innovation team and deployed at IsraAID’s mission in Juba, South Sudan, to support internally displaced women and girls.

Nationally, as many as two-thirds of women and girls in South Sudan will experience GBV during their lifetimes, and internally displaced people (IDPs) are especially vulnerable. Over 2 million people in South Sudan are internally displaced due to ongoing conflict, and almost 50% of IDP women avoid basic activities like collecting water or using latrines for fear of exposure to GBV. IsraAID aims to provide comprehensive resources for GBV survivors, ensuring that they understand their rights and can access meaningful mental health, medical, and legal services.

IsraAID’s chatbot will guide outreach workers who conduct GBV outreach and prevention services through tracking disclosures, thereby improving the process of referring them to case workers. It will also suggest appropriate basic psychosocial support for them to facilitate, so survivors can access these services even before case workers follow up on referrals. The SMS function, which does not rely on internet connectivity, makes the chatbot usable even in remote areas. Continuous and digitized data collection allows for advanced monitoring and evaluation, supporting continued refinement of the chatbot, as well as IsraAID’s prevention and response services.

Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund program is a grant-making facility that improves outcomes for people affected by humanitarian crises by identifying, nurturing and sharing more effective, innovative, and scalable solutions. IsraAID’s AnenaSawa project was selected as one of four participants in the GBV Tech Innovation Challenge from over 250 applications.

South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, was formed in 2011. Two years later, civil war erupted across the country. Due to repeated environmental disasters and armed conflict, there are over 2 million internally displaced people in South Sudan and another 10.26 million South Sudanese refugees worldwide. IsraAID launched its mission to the country in 2011, where its local team of South Sudanese humanitarian experts focuses on child protection, preventing and responding to gender-based violence, and promoting sexual and reproductive health rights.

IsraAID South Sudan Program Manager, Lydia Layaa, said:

“IsraAID remains committed to the long-term resilience of displaced communities in South Sudan. Since arrival in the country in 2011, IsraAID has worked to support women and girls in the face of Gender-Based Violence. 

We’re proud to be developing Anenasawa as a new tool to help us provide comprehensive and confidential support for our GBV outreach workers, and through them, survivors. This SMS-based chatbot works to ensure that outreach workers can properly track disclosures and provide real-time support to survivors of GBV, making sure that more survivors can quickly access the resources and help they need. Anenasawa compliments our ongoing programs that offer psychosocial support and resources to survivors while raising awareness about GBV across the community.“

IsraAIDs Information, Innovation, and Impact Coordinator, Molly Bernstein said:

“Technology is an incredible resource for humanitarians but must also be fitted to the resources and context of the community. In creating Anenasawa, we considered many factors – from privacy concerns to lack of infrastructure and low connectivity – to create a technological solution that meets the real needs of displaced communities in South Sudan. The low-tech SMS function allows for use in areas with limited connectivity. Continuous data-collection will allow us to refine and improve the chatbot, troubleshooting issues in real-time, and improve our overall GBV prevention and response programming by tracking data throughout these processes.”

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Further information is available on request, including interviews with IsraAID South Sudan Country Director Willem van Rheenan and other individuals involved in this operation.

CONTACT:

Shachar May
Email: [email protected]
Phone/Whatsapp: +972586664969

Notes:

IsraAID is a leading international humanitarian non-governmental organization, based in Israel. Since 2001, IsraAID has become synonymous with a rapid response to humanitarian crises and a long-term commitment to working with affected communities. During and after emergencies, IsraAID partners with communities to rebuild their lives – and their futures – together. As of March 2024, IsraAID has responded to more than 100 emergencies, in more than 60 countries.

Elrha is a global charity that finds solutions to complex humanitarian problems through research and innovation. Visit www.elrha.org to find out more.