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How an app can help reunite missing children in South Sudan

Nyandor* was only 12 years old when her village in South Sudan came under attack in 2014. She ran as fast as she could to save her life, but was separated from her mother, Emmanuela*, and her four younger siblings – John*, Sarah*, Asha* and Hope* – in the midst of chaos.

The children eventually found each other. But they did not find their mother. They ended up in a UN camp where other separated children lived in crowded tents, often without proper clothing or clean water.

They children lived there for five years, without their mother’s love and care.

Reunited at last

But in 2019, half a decade since that fateful day that changed their lives, Nyandor became the 6,000th child to have been reunited with their family in South Sudan.

The reunion was like a scene from a movie. Nyandor and her siblings, after a long and tiresome journey, rushed out of the car into their mother’s embrace. Emmanuela touched her children’s faces, not quite believing that they were finally together. Everyone was in tears of joy; their friends and neighbours singing and cheering them on.

The work behind the reunions

Behind inspiring stories like these, however, is a lot of work – and a lot of data.

It takes a well-oiled machine of community members, caseworkers, information and intelligence work to bring a child back to their families’ embrace.

And in fragile conflict-affected contexts like South Sudan, it can be especially difficult, where support services and infrastructure are limited, and where reliance on paperwork (instead of digital systems) can cause unnecessary delays.

Using technology for good in Sudan

That is why Save the Children has partnered with UNICEF and other organisations to develop an app, CPIMS+ (Child Protection Information Management System plus), that enables the effective and efficient management of thousands of caseloads of unaccompanied or separated children. And it does so in a safe, secured and protected way.

This initiative started in 2005 when Save the Children, UNICEF and the International Rescue Committee pioneered a way for agencies to safely share information relevant for Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR) work.

The humanitarian sector is often criticised for duplication or working in siloes. But as far back as more than a decade ago, those involved in creating this first ever information management system for FTR were ahead of the curve, proving that outcomes are better when agencies work together.

Since then the system has massively evolved to become what is now known as CPIMS+.

How does it work?

It now supports child protection work beyond FTR, such as case management and incident monitoring. And it’s been adapted to be used both online and offline meaning that data can be synched as soon as there is network, or as a mobile app, along with a host of other features.

Today, CPIMS+ is utilised in humanitarian responses across the world. For instance, it has been rolled out to support case management for vulnerable children in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

In South Sudan, where the civil war has left over 8,000 children still separated from their families, CPIMS+ can help simplify and speed up the reunification process.

Silvia Onate, a Child Protection specialist in South Sudan, says, “This new system with the app for tablets and phones will change my work and the work of my colleagues, and in turn will change the lives of thousands of children.”

The story today – and how we can change it

Today more than 420 million children – one in five – live in a conflict zone. They are at risk of being killed, injured, abused or being separated from their families.

But through the innovative CPIMS+, Save the Children alongside UNICEF and other partners can make sure that children, like Nyandor and her four siblings, are safe and sound in the arms of the ones they love.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.

What can you do next?

Find out more about our work in Africa

Read other good news stories

Support our Emergency Fund to help support children like Nyandor

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