UGANDA, 2013. The Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification System (RapidFTR) system is used to collect and share information via mobile phone about children and families in emergencies. The information aids family tracing and reunification of unaccompanied minors. © UNICEF/UKLA2013-03809/LIZ SHAH
UGANDA, 2013. The Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification System (RapidFTR) system is used to collect and share information via mobile phone about children and families in emergencies. The information aids family tracing and reunification of unaccompanied minors. © UNICEF/UKLA2013-03809/LIZ SHAH

RapidFTR on Marie Claire:

Smartphones are for more than just selfies. New technology means they are being used to reunite children in disaster zones with their families.

When Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in November last year, flattening whole cities with 180mph winds, thousands of children were separated from their parents and relatives in the mayhem that followed.

The days after were crucial. ‘During any emergency, children who are alone are particularly vulnerable to a range of risks, including exploitation, abuse and even trafficking,’ explains Pernille Ironside of children’s charity UNICEF.

Thankfully, aid workers in the Philippines have been able to use a revolutionary new mobile app, RapidFTR (which stands for family tracing and reunification), to document children displaced by the typhoon.

RapidFTR aims to reunite the minors with their families as quickly as possible by recording key information about the child’s identity, including a photo and information about their separation. This is then shared on a central database, meaning a family member could look for a missing child anywhere across the country – from a remote rural village to the capital city of Manila. Relatives who recognise pictures of lost children have to provide key information about them to ensure they are genuine.

The app is easier, quicker and less open to corruption than the traditional paper system – where photographs of children are hung up on a wall, which family members must visit in person. It was trialled last year in East Africa, where hundreds of children from the war-thorn Democratic Republic of Congo, including former child soldiers, were reunited with family members living in the sprawling refugee camps of Uganda.

Read the full article on Marie Claire here

Read more about RapidFTR and the situation in the Philippines:

RapidFTR, an app for reuniting families in disaster situations

RapidFTR aims to reunite families in Yolanda-hit areas in the Philippines

Innovations in emergencies reporting from the Philippines – First 6 days

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