• Revolutionary mobile app set to keep World Health Organisation workers safe

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    November 27, 2018
    Sheffield Hallam University and the UN's migrant agency have developed a system designed to protect World Health Organisation (WHO) staff working in the field. 

    The team at the University's Centre of Excellence in Terrorism, Resilience and Organised Crime Research (CENTRIC) has worked with WHO and the UN's migration agency IOM to co-create the security-focused situational awareness dashboard and app. 

    CENTRIC brought its expert technical knowhow to the table, while IOM brought its indispensable knowledge of the UN system and in particular its concern to offer its 11,000 staff - many located in dangerous emergency field missions - a state of the art security system, through this unique partnership.

    The platform has been deployed for WHO staff working on humanitarian missions, including during the recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

    The app and platform allows staff to share their current locations, alerts them to similar outbreaks or near-by threats. It comes a year after CENTRIC, working with IOM, first developed the innovative Security Communications and Analysis Network (SCAAN) system - a network including a mobile phone app designed to enhance the safety and security of the UN’s IOM staff while deployed in the field.

    Babak Akhgar, director of CENTRIC, said: "The ability to share real-time information between WHO colleagues is vital to their safety, and the safety of those that they are trying to help. This new platform will help hundreds of people every day across the world and will help WHO staff to carry out their life-saving and vital work.

    "CENTRIC is honoured to be able to support WHO and to work with them to develop this platform and is a testament to how our software engineers , scientists and security practitioners regularly collaborate to create innovative solutions to global security challenges."

    The new system has already proved its worth as recently, just after the SCAAN system was activated, a WHO residence came under attack in Beni, DRC, and IOM’s 24/7 Operations Centre in Manila began receiving alerts via the dashboard. Support calls were made to the WHO staff in danger and shortly after, the WHO security focal point in DRC sent a message to all staff advising them to take steps for their own safety – particularly to stay away from windows and seek cover.

    Over the past year, IOM has field-tested the security communications system that includes a dashboard for security professionals to monitor global risks to staff and a mobile app to enable staff to send alerts and receive push notifications on developing threats to ensure a rapid and well-directed response for those in danger.

    SCAAN is also being rolled out to IOM’s 11,000 staff worldwide to enhance their security as they work in challenging contexts. Currently, as the rollout continues, the system is being used by more than 3,300 IOM staff based in 130 countries.   

    On their mobile devices, WHO staff with the new system are equipped with: 

    · Easily installed app to provide emergency alerts, receive warning information, and crowd-source reports about incidents in their vicinity.

    · One-touch contact with security professionals to get help and respond to requests for accountability and status.

    · Geo-location which can provide critical information in case of hostage taking or security incident.
    On the live dashboard, security professionals are equipped with:

    · A map-based security dashboard for monitoring the status, safety and location of all enrolled staff.  

    · Graphical visualization of the number of staff members on the system, current location, and any indicating a “NOT OK” status.

    · Ability to push warnings of specific or general nature to all staff or targeted groups based on location.
    Sheffield Hallam University is a national leader in creating innovative and real-world solutions for tackling today's health and wellbeing challenges and its practitioners, scientists, engineers and designers regularly collaborate to create innovative solutions that will drive economic growth, health improvements and community wellbeing. 
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