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Every Voice: SMS to monitor gaps in public health services

International Rescue Committee

“Tracking public health services for 170,956 people in rural Kenya.” — International Rescue Committee


volunteers collecting independent information on health service functionality


health facilities supported by 37 outreach posts in Turkana West

Start date
May 2014
End date
March 2016
Period: 23 months


Quality public healthcare is a key objective of the Kenyan government, with national healthcare provision outlined at the national, county and local levels in Kenya's plans for devolution. But inequality is service availability is still rife and for many people the reality of public healthcare is poor facilities, regular drug stock-outs and limited numbers of trained doctors.

Accurate information on these services is scarce, and large scale surveys are expensive to implement. As a result, both citizens and local governments - who often cannot afford to send monitors out to remote areas - struggle to piece together an accurate picture of health services, and of where and how services should be improved.


Turkana has one of the most limited health infrastructures in Kenya, characterized by absenteeism among medical professionals, poor quality of medical service and a lack of accountability between the people who provide medical services and the people they are serving.

To help provide the government with actionable data, and improve decision-making on health services, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is using SMS to monitor and improve the health and nutrition services provided by 12 health facilities and 37 outreach posts in Turkana West. Working with citizen-led health management committees, the project team are supporting the introduction of community scorecards to identify gaps in health services and  prioritize healthcare needs in the county.

By consolidating citizen feedback and providing this data to the local government, the team aims to improve the oversight of health service providers. They also hope to bridge the gap between limited, expensive monitoring by government, and widespread, cheap monitoring by service users through SMS, providing a model for more citizen monitoring projects in the future.


The International Rescue Committee helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future. IRC teams provide health care, infrastructure, learning and economic support to people in 40 countries, with special programs designed for women and children. Every year, the IRC resettles thousands of refugees in 22 U.S. cities.