Written by Christian Kpordje, Security Specialist, UNDP Access to Justice, Security and Human Rights Strengthening Programm
ECC personnel receiving call. Photo: UNDP
“The Emergency Call Centre is about community policing and about people seeing each other as friends. Most importantly, it is about ensuring human rights for all,” said UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director for the Regional Bureau for Africa Ahunna Eziakonwa, during the inauguration of the Emergency Call Centre (ECC) in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal state, in February 2019.
Supported by UNDP's Access to Justice, Security and Human Rights Strengthening programme, the ECC is part of community, municipal and metropolitan safety measures meant to enable members of society to go about their lawful activities without fear of harassment, intimidation, and other criminal activities.
With this aim, UNDP supported the South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS), to expand ECC services to Wau after operationalizing the pilot concept in Juba in 2014. The ECC offers residents a toll-free service to report crimes and emergencies to short codes by dialling 777 or 112 in the Wau municipality. Two emergency response vehicles were donated by the Government of Japan to enhance mobility of SSNPS to respond to ECC calls.
Prior to the establishment of the ECC, Western Bahr el Ghazal state experienced a period of protracted conflict-related crisis which impacted the availability of public services, particularly in Wau, the state capital and South Sudan’s second-largest city. Weak police-community relations, and absence of police capacity to respond to emergencies had undermined public confidence in the ability of authorities to provide community safety and security services.
After the introduction of the ECC in Wau, the number of reported crimes in 2019 revealed a downward trend from 2,641 in 2018 to 2,082. The proactive, and swift-response approach of the police further decreased reported criminal activities to 603 in 2020. In addition, SSNPS conducted 1,001 medical emergency evacuations in Wau in 2020, enabled by the public’s use of the ECC services. This provides evidence the ECC is being used not only for safety and security response, but also as a medical emergency tool.
Community embraces the ECC
Mathew Chan Majok, 78-year-old man with impaired vision, lives in Hai Lamatelado neighborhood of Wau. Matthew recounted an incident when he heard a troubling noise close to his house. Informed that neighbourhood youth were fighting, he then called the ECC on 112 and within five minutes, the patrol team arrived and arrested those involved. He also cited intermittent gun shots which used to occur nightly in his neighbourhood due to robbery incidents have ceased for nearly three months.
Marial Ukel, a 32-year-old woman in Hai Nadrid neighborhood in Wau, recounted a nighttime incident where a 35-year-old man reportedly attacked and raped a neighbour. Marial quickly called the ECC in response and the police intervened to provide support to the victim. While the victim succumbed to their injuries two weeks later, the perpetrator was identified and is currently in custody awaiting trial.
Del Akol Nor, the Sultan of Hai Barcherki neighborhood of Wau, together with Santino Wec, also of Hai Barcherki, have both sought police assistance through the ECC to aid two women in labour and break up a fight between several young men. They attribute these interventions to making Hai Barcherki more peaceful.
Assessment data shows progress
The ECC has also proven itself as a mechanism for collection, compilation, and analysis of emergency calls. The data management aspect of the initiative has built police capacity and standardized record keeping through manual registers and reports, and computerized templates. All calls received and responded to at the Wau ECC are manually recorded by response operators in call registers.
A highlight of the assessment indicates after two years of implementation, the Wau population now relies in part on police response and estimated the ECC’s ability to respond to calls at about 3 – 10 minutes. This capacity has improved public confidence in the ability of public safety authorities to help in crisis, via the ECC and the SSNPS at large.
The ECC has also notably improved access to justice through the police as opposed to traditional institutions and/or authorities, as its services have demystified negative assumptions the public previously held towards the police.
We can see positive effects the ECC has had on the community by providing a platform for citizens to take initiative to report crimes and emergency incidents. From what used to be a fragmented and weak security service, the ECC has built confidence in the SSNPS to provide a purposeful and trusted service to the community.
UNDP’s Access to Justice, Security and Human Rights Strengthening programme works with the SSNPS to implement community policing initiatives, including comprehensive support to the network of police community relations committees (PCRCs) in hotspots across South Sudan. This work is made possible with funding from the Government of Japan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.