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UNFPA and UNICEF ESARO Launch Polls on Behavioral Changes, Coping Strategies and Evolving Needs during COVID-19

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa--UNFPA East and Southern Africa through the Safeguard Young People Programme in collaboration with UNICEF within the 2gether for SRH programme is in the process of developing new content for adolescents and young people on Sexual Reproductive Health and HIV for the Internet of Good Things (IoGT) and developed new polls on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health & HIV Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) for the three mobile platforms that the two agencies work with: U-Report, IoGT and TuneMe. The polls were rolled out in April 2021. The collaboration will also include a reference into IoGT AYP SRH/HIV pages on TuneMe and vice versa for cross-promotion among young people.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a situation affecting billions of lives across the world. Effective management of the pandemic partly depends on communication and people's knowledge, attitudes, behaviours, and practices about it. Moreover, to facilitate the management of a pandemic it is also critical to understand these linkages over time and how they impact children and young people's lives. This necessitates the need for immediately available community-sourced data that can be captured in a time-series manner.

Therefore, a Time Series Community-Sourced Data for Rapid Assessment of Behavioural Changes, Coping Strategies and Evolving Needs During COVID-19 was conducted in the ESA region. The aim is that this data complements other existing programme and field data to provide social and behavioural insights to inform COVID-19-related policy and programming decisions.

About the three platforms

Internet of Good Things (IOGT) is a mobile-ready website that enables access to educational and lifesaving information. IOGT is available for free, without data charges, in 65 countries through partnerships with Mobile Network Operators and Free Basics by Facebook. To date, more than 40 million users have accessed IOGT since launch in 2015. IOGT hosts content modules in up to 14 languages and is configured to support unique user profiles, surveys, polls, comments, and open-ended questions. In Eastern and Southern Africa, IoGT has engaged over 8 million users across 12 countries.

IOGT's users include frontline workers, educators, parents, caregivers, youths, and adolescents. IOGT sites are managed by UNICEF Country Offices and contain localized content. This typically includes content on maternal health, hygiene, emergency information on diseases, HIV and sexual health advice for adolescents, and internet safety. In response to COVID-19, IOGT content now includes information on how to prevent and identify symptoms of COVID-19, clinical guidelines for frontline health workers, and support for mitigating the secondary impacts of COVID-19 including GBV resources, anti-stigma messaging, and positive parenting strategies.

TuneMe is a mobile site (mobisite) developed and rolled out by UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO), under its flagship youth programme "Safeguard Young People" (SYP) and in collaboration with Praekelt Foundation, Ford Foundation and DFID. Tune Me is designed for low- and high-end devices in environments where high data charges and poor network coverage combine to limit access to online services. Tune Me is available in seven countries in southern Africa: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe and has already reached over 4million unique users.

Through social features and content designed to be youthful and interactive for users, Tune Me aims to equip adolescents with the information and motivation they need to make informed choices. Adolescents access Tune Me through the Internet browser on their mobile phone or through Free Basics by Facebook, which allows any young person with a mobile phone to access the platform without the limitation of data or Wi-Fi connectivity (Facebook, 2018). The Tune Me platform also includes a GPS clinic finder feature and an M&E system 'built in' which allows routine reviews of the reach of the mobisite disaggregate by age and sex including bouncing rates, preferred articles -- to mention a few.

U-Report is a messaging programme for adolescent, youth and community participation, designed to address any issue that affects children and young people - by collecting information from them to improve policy and programmes, and by directly providing life-saving information to the most vulnerable in a timely way. U-Report is run in collaboration with government partners, UNICEF programmes, and local NGOs or CSOs. UNICEF country offices and our partners use it to share information, raise awareness, and collect quantifiable data on specific areas that impact the most vulnerable - including child protection, health, education and emergency response. Responses received are analysed in real-time, mapped and displayed on a public dashboard."[1] It aims to engage adolescents/youth and provide a safe space for them to raise their voice and concerns.

U-Report is currently active in 12 ESAR countries engaging about 2 million adolescents and young people in the region. Through polls and other ways of engagement, U-Report is meant to:

  1. Empower young people to share opinions on issues that matter to them;
  2. Provide valuable information to community members and government and strengthen structures to ensure this information is acted upon;
  3. Amplify voices for advocacy at local, national, regional, and global levels;
  4. Use citizen data to improve accountability towards them and strengthen programmes of UNICEF and partners;
  5. Administrate the creation and distribution of relevant and high-quality written or graphic content in the form of e-newsletters, and or social media messages, and campaign;
  6. Influence positive behaviour change;
  7. Ensure U-Reporters are given feedback on how their data is used, as well as information to allow them to act in areas of interest or concern;
How you can participate

It only takes three minutes to complete the polls and you can do that by selecting your country from the list below:

About the Safeguard Young People Programme

Since 2013, SYP has been empowering adolescents and young people aged 10 to 24 years (with a special focus on adolescent girls) to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, early and unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion, early marriage, gender-based violence and harmful cultural practices, while promoting gender-equitable norms. The programme has been implemented in eight Southern African countries - Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. SYP is funded by the generous support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).