HNPW 2022 - Accountability to Affected Populations: Lessons from COVID-19 response: the importance of using community-based data in emergency responses

Drawing from the experience of the Collective Service, this session will show examples of how a collective approach to community engagement coordination can make a difference in the response in communities facing multiple threats and where the same partners respond simultaneously to public health, humanitarian and other emergencies.

The session will share experiences of how social data has contributed (or not) to informing and shaping epidemics response, with focus on the response to COVID-19 and Ebola, emphasizing lessons that can benefit humanitarian responses in the future. In addition, it will discuss how investments in data systems contribute to more effective preparedness programming strengthening of community resilience through better preparation, response, and learning.

The session will provide concrete examples and inspiration for actors across the spectrum of humanitarian and public health crises on the benefits of collective approaches to community engagement and how they can contribute to faster, more accountable and effective responses.

About the Collective Service
The Collective Service is a collaborative partnership between UNICEF, WHO, IFRC with support from the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), and key stakeholders from the public health and humanitarian sectors. The Collective Service aims to deliver the structures and mechanisms required for a coordinated community-centered approach that is embedded across public health, humanitarian, and development response efforts. This will ensure that expert-driven, collaborative, consistent, and localized community engagement support reach governments and partners involved in the national response to COVID-19.

Event polls

During the event, we also asked participants to share their views and advice on the discussed topic. You can find the final results of these below.


What main lesson would you highlight from community engagement related to COVID-19 for accountability of humanitarian response in general?

  • To tailor and adapt the humanitarian response based on the specific contexts
  • There is much more capacity in communities than we normally expect. However, it is a mistake to think in terms of single "community" engagement. Communities are not homogeneous and this must be taken into account.
  • We need to be ready for any situation. Different people have different needs… so timely assessments are also important...
  • More coordinated support across sectors , to strengthen the sense of engagement by Community key influencers and Community leaders
  • In general, common approach was on accepting lockdown and related by laws implementation. Like wearing masks, installing hand sanitizer facility in common sites.
  • Engage with grassroots level early on, using phone or internet access; don't become a vector yourself when visiting and working in communities. Explain why you use preventive methods even though others may not do so or see it as unnecessary.
  • We need a full and open analysis of how we have talked about capacity development since the marketing (deliberate use of the word) of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic reflected international organisations must be integral to all work.
  • It is important to inform the community about the pandemic first and engage them in finding how this affects them and developing prevention strategies at the household to community level and charting out clear during implementation.
  • Should increase participation at community level and prevent corruption among officials
  • We have failed to build capacity at state and local institution level.
  • Rumour harvesting and rumour busting - understanding and addressing myths - is key and relevant to many sectors.
  • We require far more holistic programming initiatives - fitting response to integrated, coherent, longer term working to mitigate if not forestall future emergencies
  • It is always good to keep in touch with the communities during such time for their feed back in real time for better and quick response targeted to their needs in time
  • Change goes step by step, community feedback helped a lot to structure and personalized responses to set up a real discussion and address different questions, concerns, fear, perceptions... It helps along the way listening and acting accordingly
  • Avoiding contradictory messages, especially from officials and scientists
  • Accountability and responsibility is best done in a localised manner – i.e., through a fully empowered health network
  • Quick response time is essential, real time risk communication has to be in place to reduce the efficiency and spread of the impact. Training, advocacy and advisory, decentralization of support, and incentives to reach all in society.
  • To have standby options for getting community feed-back during such emergencies that are community based
  • Coordination at different level between partners
  • The community wants inclusive collaboration on the humanitarian response
  • A real lack of knowledge in how the pandemic would unfurl - paucity of knowledge on the need to balance pandemic response to other demands on people with precarious livelihood
  • Understand context and culture of different communities in order to adapt responses
  • The differences between data and information very apparent - The gaps in data very apparent and capability to draw information from data strong
  • Communities are the one but really the ones who could make change and they are the ones taking decision, decision needs to be taken locally
  • Lack of access to remote communities, whether thru lockdowns, conflict or natural disaster meant that "easy to access" communities, often in capital cities, had a much greater voice than remote communities resulting in lack of accountability to them
  • The use of tech - and also learning who this left behind
  • We need to close the loop on feedback received from communities
  • Ensuring privacy of people infected by COVID to prevent stigma/discrimination
  • Best solutions are with the community.
  • Humanitarian workers have to be familiar with the culture of the people being reached. The hesitancy from communities is mainly because they don't trust outsiders who come in with pre-conceived notions.
  • It's important to have the local personnel of an organization lead RCCE for COVID-19 response. In some cases, the presence of international personnel was seen as intrusive.

Event recording (YouTube)

Watch recording

Event recording (audio podcast)

Access podcast


Ombretta Baggio Senior Advisor, Community Engagement and Accountability, IFRC.
Simone Carter Lead, Integrated Outbreak Analytics (IOA), UNICEF Public Health Emergencies.
Manager, Cellule d’Analyse Intégrée (CAI), DR Congo.
Ngonidzashe (Ngoni) Macdonald Nyambawaro Inter-Agency Country Support Officer, Eastern and Southern Africa, Collective Service for Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE).
Gibstar Makangila Executive director, Circle of Hope.
Silvia Magnoni Global Coordinator, Collective Service for Risk Communication and Community Engagement. (RCCE)
Joren Raymenants MD Phd researcher, KU Leuven.


Manisha Thomas Senior Policy Advisor, PHAP.