Case Study: Ituri Province

GeoPoll SMS Survey Delivers Rapid, Real-Time Insights on Residents of Conflict-Affected Ituri Province in the DRC

Background on the Crisis in Ituri Province

Violence has spiked in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province since about December of 2017, contributing to an evolving humanitarian crisis. Observers attribute the current conflict to violence that began in 1999 over land use disagreements and political differences between two different ethnic groups, the Hema cattle herders and Landu famers. The crisis has caused widespread displacement, as well as death and injury to residents of the province. According to news sources, since December 2017 more than 260 people have died and over 200,000 have fled their homes. The DRC has a population of about 77 million, and Ituri province has a population of about 2.2 million. At the end of April 2018, United Nations (UN) investigators uncovered what they believe to be five mass graves in the province.

Given the high levels of conflict and internally displaced people, gathering on-the-ground data surrounding the situation in Ituri province has been a challenge. In April 2018 GeoPoll used its remote data collection capabilities to collect insights on the situation directly from citizens themselves, finding high levels of displacement and food insecurity, differing opinions on the conflict’s impact on communities, and gathering first-person insights on the conflict.

Solution: SMS Surveys Deliver Rapid Results

From April 18 – 19, 2018, GeoPoll utilized its mobile data collection platform and database of mobile subscribers in the DRC to conduct an SMS survey that generated real-time insights from conflict-ridden communities in Ituri province. By reaching individuals directly affected by the crisis through their mobile phones, GeoPoll was able to gather perceptions from hard-to-reach voices and review trends that can be used to inform the humanitarian response.

In less than 48 hours of data collection via two-way SMS (text message) surveys, GeoPoll reached a representative sample size of 400 respondents in Ituri province. GeoPoll leveraged its database of 12.9 million mobile subscribers in the DRC to identify and reach respondents across the five territories of Aru, Djugu, Irumu, Mahagi, and Mambasa.


The results of this survey highlight the level of displacement in the province, the reach of international aid into the province, and degree of food insecurity.

  • Displacement Reported: The majority (60%) of respondents reported that they are displaced from home at the time of the survey.
  • Reach of International Aid: About half of respondents are currently receiving food or cash assistance from the government, NGOs, churches, or other sources (49%).
  • High Degree of Food Insecurity: Although results of this survey cannot determine the cause of this issue, food insecurity in this province at the time of the survey was very high. In particular:
    • 93% of respondents reported that they ate fewer meals in a day over the last seven days; and
    • 64% percent of respondents reporting not having sufficient food to feed their family for the upcoming week.
  • Differing Opinions on Problem of Conflict: Interestingly, respondents were essentially split on the two ends of the spectrum with their rating of how large of a problem conflict is in their community, with 44% saying that it is not a problem at all, and 45% saying that it is a major problem.
  • Real-time Individual Voices on Inter-Ethnic Conflict: When given the option to share thoughts on inter-ethnic conflict in their community in an open-ended question, 156 survey participants opted to type a message and voice their opinions. Actual responses included:

GeoPoll Surveys for Rapid Information on Humanitarian Crises

The results from this survey demonstrate the power of mobile as a tool for connecting with and collecting data from individuals in remote and conflict-ridden areas. In humanitarian crises, GeoPoll generates real-time insights — using a device that many people already have in their pockets. GeoPoll’s remote data collection capabilities provide a way to safely gather statistically significant information without putting data collectors or aid workers in harm’s way. Through targeting specific respondents, GeoPoll can gather extremely granular, highly specific information about hard-to-reach groups, like IDPs, in a cost-effective manner. Although the survey presented in this case study provides a snapshot of one moment in this crisis, GeoPoll can also be utilized as a predictive or longitudinal tool, and results from recurring GeoPoll surveys can track or anticipate upticks in violence or food insecurity.

GeoPoll in the DRC

Since 2011, GeoPoll has collected more than 515,000 completed surveys across the DRC, and can send one-off surveys or establish panels of respondents for longitudinal assessments. GeoPoll has a database of 12.9 million mobile users in the DRC and is also able to run surveys or one-way messaging campaigns with a database of beneficiary phone numbers provided by an implementing partner. We have the capability to implement pre-stratification sampling methodologies in the DRC and target respondents based on key factors such as age, gender, and location. GeoPoll has worked with over 20 clients and partners in the DRC – including Humanitarian Outcomes, Johns Hopkins University, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), UNDP, USAID, and WFP.

Key Points:

  • GeoPoll SMS survey collected data from conflict-ridden region in just 48 hours
  • Results demonstrate high levels of displacement and food insecurity
  • 60% of respondents are displaced
  • 49% of respondents are currently receiving food or cash assistance
  • 93% of respondents ate fewer meals per day over the last seven days

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