RAPIDFTR: an open-source mobile application that helps humanitarian workers gather and share information to support Family Tracing and Reunification in emergencies.

In every emergency, the commotion of survival and flight leads to the separation of children from their caregivers. By introducing RapidFTR–an open-source mobile phone application–to replace the paper forms traditionally used to document separated and unaccompanied children in emergencies, UNICEF and partners are working to improve the speed and effectiveness of family tracing and reunification for children in some of the most complex emergencies around the world.

The longer children are separated from their families in emergencies, the more vulnerable they are to violence, exploitation, and trafficking. Humanitarian organisations devote considerable time and effort to bringing families back together through a process called Family Tracing and  Reunification (FTR). Their work involves documenting children by collecting personal information, taking their photographs, and sharing what they’ve collected with NGOs, local institutions, and community members.

While speed is of the essence in reuniting children with their parents and caregivers, traditional practices to document separated children are paper-driven and inefficient. As a result, precious hours and days can be lost in the quest to reunify children with their families.

Jesus Farr, UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, interviews a young girl separated from her primary caregivers, with his Philippine Women and Child Protection Desk (WCPD) Officer counterpart of the Philippine National Police, who enters the child's essential details into RapidFTR. Photo credit: Mac Glovinsky, Innovation Unit, UNICEF NYHQ
Jesus Farr, UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, interviews a young girl separated from her primary caregivers, with his Philippine Women and Child Protection Desk (WCPD) Officer counterpart of the Philippine National Police, who enters the child’s essential details into RapidFTR. Photo credit: Mac Glovinsky, Innovation Unit, UNICEF NYHQ

In response to this challenge, UNICEF, its partners, and a global community of volunteers developed RapidFTR—a versatile open-source mobile  phone application and data storage system designed to help humanitarian workers collect, sort, and share information about unaccompanied and separated children in emergencies so they can be registered for services and reunited with their families.

Since its conception in 2009, RapidFTR has been successfully deployed in the Philippines, South Sudan, and Uganda. Additional deployments are planned in 2014, along with additional technical developments to make RapidFTR more responsive to the needs of child protection actors around the world. The iterative development and deployment of RapidFTR has been possible thanks in large part to the voluntary contributions of the open source community, bringing together volunteer developers from around the world in an effort to innovate for children.

The solution is simple, but the potential impact on the lives of children is tremendous. Watch this week for more stories about how RapidFTR is serving as a force for change in some of the world’s most complex emergencies.

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