How can tech solutions help women and girl refugee health?

Author: Clarice Hilton- Computer Science MSc, previous Code First Girls Programme Manager

Mass displacement causes immense public health impact, presenting enormous challenges for health systems and workers. Violence and insecurity, deteriorating daily living conditions combined with lengthy impoverishment and reliance on external aid compounds population wide health concerns. Women and children experience different physical and mental health problems, often isolated from getting the help they need. It is estimated that of the 59.5 million globally displaced persons 41% are women and over half are children. As part of the global tech community building solutions for refugee health EmpowerHack concentrates on solutions to the specific health problems faced by women and children refugees.

Over three days in April EmpowerHackLDN brought together an amazingly diverse group from health-care professionals, field-workers, designers and coders fueled by a desire to build sustainable health solutions. A core principle of EmpowerHack is finding solutions for real problems, and thus build with the ultimate goal of the product being used. The hack centred on 7 design challenges proposed by NGOs working in refugee health. This meant each team worked on a real problem faced by NGOs and would be able to test products with actual users. Bringing refugees into the creation of products.

Sandra, founder of UXforChange leading the Hababy profiling.

On the Friday night EmpowerHackers and supporters met, networked with a panel discussing presenting the aims of the weekend and discussing different problems and solutions to be tackled. Saturday was kicked of with an inspiring and humbling presentations from some partners including: Camille Tournebize from Terre des Hommes, Clare Shortall from Doctors of the World UK, Hina Javaid Shahid the incoming chair of the Muslim Doctors Association, and Maria Catrambone from Migrant Offshore Aid Station. All live-streamed and available for the public. This set the tone for the weekend giving hackers an insight into the lives of users and the context in which they would be using the products. The panel shared their knowledge daily experience for female refugees, telling stories of perseverance, survival and privation.

Friday EmpowerhackHEALTH LDN Panel. Filmed by Alessandro Leonardi.

Before the hacking began there was an unconference on the challenges to be solved. Expert mentors were on hand to discuss ideas and questions. Hackers began to form into teams with fast dynamic progression, some teams completely pivoting on ideas. With a concentration on user design empathy maps, wireframes, storyboards and prototypes were developed culminating on teams presenting their solution pitch and prototypes.

Empowerhack LDN family photo.

Design Challenges and Solutions

Challenge 1:

Reproductive Health (Doctors of The World, Muslim Doctors Association, Syrian Medical Association, etc)

How can we support pregnant refugees in transit by helping both women and medical personnel identify life-threatening symptoms and communicate better?

Solution: HaBaby

HaBaby strives to connect pregnant refugees with relevant medical information. It lists common symptoms, searchable by trimester, actions to take, and what to tell your doctor, and supports multiple languages — Arabic and English to start — with a focus on visual communication. It also includes information on pre- and post-natal care. The app can be utilised in places with low bandwidth, with most of the functionality accessible offline once initially downloaded. The name came from combining the Arabic word “habibi” (sweetheart) and baby.

Hababy user experience designs.

Challenge 2

Health Data / Child Welfare: ChildBirth Records on the Go (UNICEF, Doctors of The World, Terres des Hommes)

Supporting stateless Children and registering childbirth on the go. How can we improve or support the registration of stateless children and/or refugee newborns during the migrant journey/in remote areas?

Solution: Vaccine Pass — GitHub

A (hybrid) mobile app for Syrian refugee parents to keep track of their children’s’ vaccinations throughout their journey.

Challenge 3

Mental Health / Safety: HerStory (Intaliqi, MOAS)

How can we support refugee women who have experienced gender-based violence to share their stories in a secure, online, peer-led environment?

Solution: HerStory

An e-platform for storytelling and discussion developed from the first EmpowerHack in november, where refugee women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence and related dangers to share their experience and receive support.

Challenge 4

Mental Health/Education: Soul Medicine/Chayn.

Mental Health Soul Medicine SMS Design challenge: How might we create an SMS platform that allows refugees to customise their own learning and healing plan that combines motivational content and subject learning in multiple languages, while allowing them to contribute to the project?

Solution: Soul Medicine — Prototype

A mental well-being programme designed in partnership with Chayn, to reduce loneliness and depression by providing people with tech-facilitated access to crowdsourced feel-good knowledge courses and motivational quotes.

Soul Medicine landing page.

Available in English, German, Greek, and French with Arabic, Dari and Pashto currently being translated.

Challenge 5

Education for Volunteer Field Workers: Terres des Hommes Online Training

Health Training for Field Workers Design challenge: How might we create a versatile digital training tool to support health field workers to support refugee families in constrained circumstances, focusing on imparting lean, informative, and practical knowledge that addresses how to deal with a vulnerable and young refugee population?

Solution: Health Starter

Helping aid workers hit the ground running with quickly absorbable health and childcare knowledge.

Health Starter presentation site.

Challenge 6

Child WellBeing Open Design challenge:

How might we design an advocacy and storytelling platform or campaign that uses the experiences and artistic expressions of refugee children to build support and content for child psychological support programs? How do you design for trauma when children can be uncomfortable expressing it?

Solution: Draw My Life

API for the Draw My Life service that contains drawings made by child refugees.

An accessible web platform that aims to host digitized drawings made by children in refugee camps, with the hope of advocating for increased child mental health support.

Challenge 7

Patient-Led Health Records: London School of Health and Tropical Medicine- Public Health in Humanitarian Crises Group.

Patient Health Records Design challenge: How can we leverage mobile phones to store refugees’ individual healthcare history, potentially that can support a personalised longitudinal follow-up scheme for individual refugee health?

Solution: Record on the Go — Prototype

Portable anonymous health record for long term refugee health care. Record on the Go is an application aimed to allow you to have access to your medical record in a portable electronic way. Designed to facilitate better long-term care and management of Non-communicable diseases and chronic illness.

Watch the pitches here.

Watch the saturday panel here

View empowerhack projects github here