The simple act of SMS text messaging has helped scores of people displaced by the floods in Pakistan after Save the Children implemented an innovative way to use the mobile phone technology in its relief work.
A hotline has been up and running since early August which allows people to phone in or text suggestions or complaints relating to Save the Children’s health clinics and distribution centres.
Three months after the floods struck, scores of people have used the service, and in doing so they have been able to have a voice in the relief effort.
Issues dealt with so far, include reported fraud, lack of drinking water and staff behaviour. Save the Children staff carry mobile phones solely dedicated to the hotline, and will then follow up within 24 hours after the message is received. The call is then logged in a database, where a record of how the issue was resolved is also registered.
“In one case, a complaint was received that a community volunteer supervisor was deducting 10 percent from the pay of each community member engaged in the Cash for Work program,” says Khurram Masood, Save the Children’s media and communications advisor in Islamabad.
“Upon investigation it was clear that the community volunteer supervisor was unjustly deducting the amount for his own pocket. Save the Children then changed its policy to ensure that its staff would be present when people were paid,” he said. “The community supervisor was reprimanded.”
In another instance, Save the Children installed a water pump when someone pointed out that they had no clean water available.
With security a constant concern in Pakistan, sometimes aid deliveries have to be postponed or cancelled. The hotline provides a way to communicate with flood affected families and notify them that delivery plans have changed.
The texting hotline was piloted earlier this year, allowing it to be rolled out across the three flood-stricken provinces in which Save the Children is providing life-saving relief to children and families.