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Responsible Data for Children Initiative Releases Report on Responsible Handling of Refugee Children Data in Uganda

After posting several shorter reflections on this work on its blog site, RD4C is excited today to announce the release of a full report of its activities.

Posted on 22nd of December 2022 by Andrew Zahuranec

Responsible Data for Children Initiative Releases Report on Responsible Handling of Refugee Children Data in Uganda
Responsible Data for Children Initiative Releases Report on Responsible Handling of Refugee Children Data in Uganda

This September, the Responsible Data for Children (RD4C) initiative traveled to Uganda for its first-ever studio series to promote the responsible handling of data for and about children. Supported by UNHCR and UNICEF’s Blueprint for Joint Action, itself a commitment to accelerate efforts in line with the Global Compact on Refugees, the studios brought together national and community leaders and others to diagnose data challenges affecting the management of mental health and psychosocial services in refugee settlements in Uganda and develop new solutions to more responsibly and effectively manage data.

After posting several shorter reflections on this work on its blog site, RD4C is excited today to announce the release of a full report of its activities. “Responsible Data for Refugee Children in Uganda: Improving Data Systems for Mental Health and Psychosocial Services Through A Studio Series” provides an overview of RD4C’s work over the course of a week, major reflections on the state of data responsibility in Uganda, and recommendations co-developed with UNICEF and UNHCR in Uganda, government officials, community representatives, and refugees themselves.

Overview of Events

The report begins with several sections: an introduction; an overview of the context in Uganda; an explanation of the field research. These parts of the report provide an explanation of the Responsible Data for Children initiative and the reason for the studio series.

With over 1.5 million refugees —over half of which are children—Uganda is the third-largest refugee-hosting country in the world and the largest refugee hosting country in Africa. Many of these refugees report experiencing psychological distress and face challenges in accessing Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS), especially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which has exacerbated the need for MHPSS amongst refugees and host communities.

Responding to these circumstances and a long-standing commitment by the Government of Uganda and UNICEF and UNHCR in Uganda to improve mental health and psychosocial services for refugee children in the country, RD4C hosted a series of workshops and focus groups.

RD4C structured these engagements—held with national leaders, service providers, adolescent refugees, and others—as conversations around the Data Lifecycle. An abstraction that explains the opportunities and challenges in how data is translated from insight into action, the lifecycle includes several parts: 

  • Planning: Defining specific objectives of a data activity;
  • Collection: Gathering data directly from the field or collating it;
  • Processing: Removing irrelevant or inaccurate information;
  • Sharing: Exchanging data and other information with relevant collaborators;
  • Analyzing: Assessing the data to extract insights;
  • Using: Acting on the insights derived.

The Data LifecycleFigure: The Stages of the Data Lifecycle

The studios also made use of the Responsible Data for Children Principles as a guide for the discussion. Speaking on the value of being Participatory, Professionally Accountable, People-Centric, Preventative of Harms, Proportional, Protective of Children’s Rights, and Purpose-Driven, RD4C encouraged participants to think critically and creatively about the challenges they face and ways to address them.


Rd4cphoto2UNICEF and UNHCR staff go through participant's inputs on the data lifecycle

Through discussions facilitated in Kampala, Isingiro, and the Nakivale Refugee Settlement, the participants were able to identify major needs at each stage of the data lifecycle. These needs ranged from challenges in planning—including the need for coordination and cohesion at the national and district level—and collection—including a desire to make use of a unique identifier for each child. Participants spoke about the need for a common taxonomy and common tools during discussions on processing and the importance of exploratory and descriptive analysis in the analysis phase.

In all, the discussions surface 17 major findings about data’s use to address mental health and psychosocial services in Uganda’s refugee settlements.

RD4C and UNICEF and UNHCR Uganda discussed these points and validated the issues raised. Together, the partners sought to identify three of these findings to further pursue over the next 3–6 months.


Solutions and Recommendations

On Friday, 23 September, RD4C and its partners, UNICEF and UNHCR, hosted its final workshop focused on ideating solutions to the most pressing challenges identified in the previous studios, interviews, and community focus groups. After some internal deliberation and validating the decision with the studio participants, the partners identified the following three priorities as being the most important and feasible to address:

  • The Need for a Taxonomy for MHPSS Data: How can data be more consistently categorized, collected, analyzed, stored and used, particularly one that distinguishes mental health from psychosocial wellbeing in a useful fashion?
  • The Value of a Data Catalog and Directory: How can MHPSS service providers datasets be accessed, used or reused more responsibly as per the principles of responsible data for children and requirements around personal data protection?
  • Responsible Data Governance: How can data be more responsibly managed to promote the rights and welfare of child refugees? 

Through structured brainstorming, studio participants identified several ways to address these needs that made use of existing resources and capacities. For achieving a taxonomy, for example, participants focused on engaging the existing MHPSS working group to coordinate service provider organizations. For creating a data catalog, the discussion focused on using an ongoing process by the Ministry of Gender Labour & Social Development to conduct a comprehensive data needs assessment. For data governance, meanwhile, participants thought an expert group composed of existing practitioners could help identify best practices.


More information on each of these elements can be found in the report, available here. We will be checking in with our colleagues in Uganda in several months to see how the results of this work have been deployed and what progress has been made.

In the meanwhile, we encourage anyone interested in this work to contact us at [email protected]

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