Aid in action

Using Sociobehavioural Data for Humanitarian Programming

an aid worker interacts with community members and recent returnees

Partners in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Sudan and Yemen are gathering behavioural insights and community feedback and tracking rumours. This is to promote the use of sociobehavioural data to shape strategies and interventions according to emerging evidence over time.

A clear understanding of local knowledge, perceptions and behaviour towards COVID-19 is critical. This is especially true of different genders, ages and other diversities. Understanding a community’s main fears in relation to the virus and the potential stigmas is critical to responding appropriately and through the most effective communications channels. These vital insights boost programming, fill knowledge gaps and increase the chances of success, especially when engaging people most at risk.

Capacity-building has included training staff on risk communications, community engagement and rumour management, ensuring these initiatives are cross-cutting and sustained. In many cases, the development and dissemination of frequently asked questions, audio-visual materials and harmonized visual materials, such as posters, banners, arts, murals, videos and animations, have been promoted in appropriate languages and accessible formats. The latter is most important to allow children, blind or deaf persons and those with intellectual disabilities to access the information provided.

Community and religious leaders are important partners in collaboration, leveraging existing front-line workers and volunteers’ networks (e.g. polio and HIV networks) and utilizing existing community-based protection/early warning mechanisms, as well as existing humanitarian feedback mechanisms, to scale up community engagement efforts.

OCHA/Naomi Frérotte


  1. For more information on understanding community perceptions about COVID-19 risk, refer to: COVID-19: Community Insights from the Asia Pacific Region - Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Pakistan (September 2020), IFRC, OCHA and WHO; COVID-19 perceptions data from community leaders in Uganda, Ground Truth Solutions; Data collected from crisis-affected communities to support more accountable and inclusive humanitarian response to COVID-19”, REACH; SUARA KOMUNITAS (The Community's Perception of Covid 19), a compilation and analysis of 28 perception surveys from various agencies