Strengthening Community Data Engagement in Humanitarian Health Crisis: A reflection from Sierra Leone

By Leonard Francis Vibbi

Sierra Leone, a small West African country, has faced the impact of two recent health crises—the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola epidemic and the global Covid-19 pandemic. In both instances, the role of data has been crucial in understanding and implementing public health measures to safeguard communities from the health, social, and economic effects accompanying such crises. Communities can be a rich source of data for public health interventions. National governments, international humanitarian organizations, and university researchers are among the various actors who collect and process this information to generate actionable insights. By leveraging this data, policymakers and practitioners can make informed decisions that positively impact the health and well-being of individuals and communities alike.

A framework for data governance in humanitarian health

In humanitarian crises, data can play a vital role in informing decision-making and implementing effective public health measures. However, developing countries such as Sierra Leone, face challenges in collecting and processing data. To ensure proper data collection, it is essential to ethically engage local communities, collect timely and complete data, and respect the rights and values of the communities involved. Community participation and involvement are crucial in producing quality data, which, when processed, supports governance responsiveness in managing health crises. This high-quality data enables decision-makers to adapt and respond quickly, tailoring interventions to meet the specific needs of affected communities.

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