Haiti: innovating to help the most vulnerable

Bertha Pierre is a 49-year-old grandmother living high atop a mountain in a one-room shack with five family members. Their hut is a three-hour hike from the nearest town, and the family has called it home since a flood destroyed their house a year ago.

“Life has just been very difficult since last year, May 23rd,” she says. “That’s when we were hit with a flood that washed away all the topsoil, and killed all our farm animals. Since then, it has been very difficult to make ends meet. We have nothing. We have no land and we have no animals.”

But – a pilot programme is being launched with the aim of improving the lives of people just like her: the most-vulnerable Haitians, living in the hardest-to-reach areas. It’s called “Kore Fanmi” — which means “family support” in Haitian Creole. It’s a programme of the government of Haiti, which was started two years ago in partnership with the World Bank and UNICEF.

(c) UNICEF Haiti/2014/Nybo
Data collected at community level is captured using locally-made tablets. (c) UNICEF Haiti/2014/Nybo

In very basic terms, a Kore Fanmi agent visits an extremely vulnerable family twice a month, with a personal family visit to check up on what their situation is. According to says UNICEF’s Tara Yip-Bannicq, “if someone is sick, they will help refer them to available services. If they don’t have a latrine, they will give them training on how to build one.” Importantly, these community-based agents are part of these communities – not outsiders — so they have the motivation to improve their community.

The commitment to the community is echoed by Samuel Desruisseaux, Kore Fanmi Communal Coordinator for Anse-a-Pitres for UNICEF partner Heart to Heart:

“For example, one of the positive impacts I’ve already seen, during the socio-economic survey, once the community understood the point of Kore Fanmi, to reach the most vulnerable, they went to find other families, to make sure everybody was included,” he says. “They refused to let anybody be excluded. I hope the results produced by the community-based agents will keep on motivating the community. The community is very motivated. They see it as their programme, and it will bring a lot of positive change.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0ox07NDIEU]

The data collection agents in the field use electronic tablets to quickly record the personal details of each family for a survey aimed at identifying the most vulnerable families. The latest tablets are a product of Haiti, manufactured by a Port-au-Prince company, Surtab, by Haitian women.

The information gathered in the field is wirelessly transmitted to a central database. The idea is to allow officials to create a personalized plan for each family to address six factors, for example, whether the children are in school, what they’re eating and how often. Follow-up visits would ensure the families get connected to the necessary services, as well as neighborhood meetings.

Kore Fanmi is focusing on the bottom 20-percent of Haitians in need, through an integrated basic services approach, in a way that’s never been done before. As the programme moves forward, it has the potential to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Haitians, no matter where they live.

On 10 September UNICEF Haiti and Digicel will host an Activate Talk on “Technology innovation for the most vulnerable children in Haiti”. Follow live here and submit your questions via Twitter using the hashtag #UNICEFActivate.

Thomas Nybo is a consultant with UNICEF Haiti.

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