KABUL: A landmark moment has been reached for children and youth in Afghanistan as the U-Report platform in the country hit one million users becoming only the fifth nation in the world to reach this milestone. U-Report is a free, SMS-based tool for community participation. It was developed by UNICEF to address issues that affect young people and the wider community. On this platform, young people can air their views through short message service (SMS) polls on healthcare, nutrition, education, polio eradication, gender-based violence, youth unemployment and other issues affecting their lives.
Since January 2021, when the platform had 9,491 registered users in Afghanistan, it has grown at over 11,000%. This makes Afghanistan the fastest growing U-Report country in the world.
“With more than one million adolescents and young people contributing to U-Report Afghanistan, we now have a critical mass of youth voices. This enables us to tailor our interventions to the needs of communities in the country,” said Dr. Mohamed Ayoya, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan. “The platform has already shaped UNICEF’s emergency programming effectively. For example, in the last months of 2021, the results of a U-Report poll led UNICEF, donors and UN agencies to scale up the use of cash transfers in Afghanistan to help those most in need.”
Since the launch of the platform in Afghanistan in 2020, 20 U-Report polls on topics ranging from polio, education, and gender-based violence, to employment and humanitarian aid have been conducted. An average of 50,000 respondents participated in each poll. In addition to polls, U-Report, via its chatbot, sent life-saving information to over 10 million mobile phone users in Afghanistan, focusing especially on reaching those in remote areas.
Despite the challenges that young people in Afghanistan face, U-Reporters have been able to bring positive change to their communities by facilitating polio vaccine promotion drives, school bag distributions and sharing life-saving information.
“One of the best things about U-Report is that we see change happening fast in our communities as a result of youth raising their voices. I find it empowering and exciting,” said Mohammad Loqman Ansari, a U-Reporter in Mazar.
The next milestone is to reach two million users by the end of 2022. This will enable UNICEF in Afghanistan to be even more effective in how it tailors and delivers programmes amidst the current humanitarian response.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank all our volunteer U-Reporters for their enthusiasm and commitment to children’s rights. Only by listening to the voices of young people and adolescents can we hope to achieve their dreams, goals and aspirations,” said Dr. Mohamed Ayoya. “I very much hope that this moment can inspire even more young people to join U-Report so that we meet the two million mark by the end of 2022!”
To join U- Report and participate in polls and receive lifesaving information, send “SALAM” to 7575 on ETISALAT, AWCC, MTN, and ROSHAN.
The platform is confidential, anonymous and the SMSs are free of charge.