Beyond the technology

How the IFRC is using KoboToolbox to support efforts in Ukraine

Owing to conflict escalation in Ukraine, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and national Red Cross organizations have been dedicating significant resources to supporting the needs of people impacted by the conflict.

As of August 23, 2022, there are an estimated 6.98 million people internally displaced within Ukraine, while over 7.2 million refugees have fled to seek protection and support in neighboring countries. In constantly changing situations like these, having access to readily available information and real-time data on displaced persons and their families is essential. For these types of crises, the IFRC has identified KoboToolbox as the primary data collection tool for them and all national Red Cross societies.

Little Alexandra was born in Poland after her mother, heavily pregnant, fled the Donbas region of Ukraine due to escalating conflict. The family has just received vouchers from the local Red Cross to help reestablish themselves in their new home. © Susan Cullinan / IFRC

The IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, with their work supporting local Red Cross and Red Crescent action in over 192 countries, bringing together almost 15 million volunteers for the good of humanity.

We spoke with Eero Sario, Senior Officer of Information Management and Primary Data Collection at the IFRC, about the important work the organization is doing for the Ukraine response and the important role of KoboToolbox in supporting data collection efforts in the midst of this crisis. Having recently returned from his time there, Sario offered us some valuable insights as to how KoboToolbox is being used by the IFRC.

What is the IFRC doing to support the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine?

Eero Sario: The IFRC is a global organization, supporting local Red Cross societies, coordinating relief work globally, and providing overall support in the form of capacity building, coordination and communication, and fundraising efforts. With the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine, the Ukrainian Red Cross and local Red Cross societies in surrounding countries are assisting people leaving the country with shelter, basic aid items, and medical supplies. The priority is to address the humanitarian needs of all people affected by the conflict, both inside and outside Ukraine.

How is KoboToolbox being used to support efforts in Ukraine?

ES: We have three primary use cases for how KoboToolbox is being applied in Ukraine – simply put, we need information on who, what, and where. We are using the platform to record the number of people reached, perform site assessments, and understand the needs and intentions of affected people. In detailing health information and insights on temporary accommodations, the platform’s GPS location feature and photo/video collection capabilities have been incredibly useful assets in situations where enumerators would otherwise need to record a detailed location description. Especially in conflict-affected settings where temporary accommodations are often transient, these details provided added context beyond simply what can be recorded in the moment.

Voucher distribution, Stargard Olekseii, Lidiia and Adriana, Red Cross staff in Szczecin. Lidiia says she, her 13-year old son Oleksii and her mother fled their home in the Donesk region when the bombing started. They’re living rent-free in a shelter for Ukrainian refugees run by the Polish Red Cross in northern Poland. “The living conditions here are nice,” she says. “I don’t have a home anymore. A rocket hit our home and completely destroyed it. I don’t know what I’d do otherwise. I have no house, no savings, no money and no income.” Red Cross has also supplied the family with vouchers to buy supplies. “I’m really grateful. I need everything. When you have nothing, everything helps.” © Susan Cullinan / IFRC

Having just returned from the field, what can you tell us about the experiences of using KoboToolbox to collect data?

ES: As we have been using KoboToolbox for data collection in Ukraine during the crisis, I have found the ability to translate KoboToolbox forms is quite exceptional – providing capabilities that many form builders and survey tools lack.

In Eastern Europe, the surrounding countries affected by conflict often don’t share the same language, so the translation capabilities have been incredibly valuable and essential to the data collection efforts.

Additionally, I find that KoboToolbox has rich features to accommodate all scenarios, which allow us to ensure that the experience for the end user is positive. The formbuilder provides the flexibility to adjust and tweak the form to be exactly what is needed in a given context.

Can you tell us more about how the IFRC uses KoboToolbox?

ES: IFRC and the entire network of National Societies uses KoboToolbox as the primary data collection tool. Recently, we launched our own KoboToolbox server, and have had positive experiences with the service we have received. Over time, we have seen the number of projects steadily increase, with over 100 of the total 192 national societies using KoboToolbox for their projects. The uptake and usage of the server is quite high, with 1,000 daily submissions.

To learn more about how the IFRC/Red Cross National Societies are supporting Ukraine, please visit IFRC’s website.

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