Public-Private Partnerships in Uganda disaster response Emergency Response Team

Collaboration in Disaster Response

This case study examines the collaboration between the Emergency Response Team (ERT), the Uganda government and the Uganda Infectious Disease Institute (IDI), a local non governmental organization (NGO) funded by the CDC, following extreme flooding in Northeastern Uganda. The ERT provided technology, knowledge on how to digitally transform response efforts, support in integrating the platform into response efforts, and digital equipment to assist the partners in responding to the disaster. This case study explores how the public and private sectors can work together to address disasters and emergencies, and provides insights into how similar collaborations can be replicated in other contexts.

The Emergency

On July 31st 2022, continuous torrential rains hit northeastern Uganda, leading to two rivers to burst their banks and flood entire communities in Mbale District. The severe flooding heavily impacted infrastructure, while destroying homes, schools, community centers and agriculture, and killing at least 24 people. Over 4,000 homes were damaged, 20,000 people have been affected, and at least 400,000 people were cut off from the national water grid. The persistent rainfall led to landslides, making initial response efforts challenging.

The Partnership's ERT arrived 10 days following the floods, to begin a collaboration with the Uganda Ministry of Health and the IDI. On the first day on the ground, the ERT team began meetings with the prime minister's office, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UN organizations, national actors within the government and other external stakeholders.

After the ERT arrived and examined the situational analysis on the ground, it was determined who the main actors involved in disaster relief operations were, as well as the main data flows and management bottlenecks. The decision was made to support the regional Mbale EOC operations due to the fact that the EOC was the official in charge.

While the ERT provided the digital solutions, real-time dashboards visualizations tools, and the needed hardware to operate the EOC, the Uganda government, the WHO, the Uganda Red Cross and other partners provided the templates for creating tailoring specific field assessments, 4W matrix (Cross departmental and organizational collaboration on data, equipment, capacities, sectors, locations and interventions), and other disaster management tools.

The Objectives

The EOC of the Ministry of Health is responsible for collecting, managing and analyzing data from communities, NGOs and other stakeholders, before, during, and after a disaster. Their aim is to effectively and efficiently manage disaster response operations, at a national and regional level. Partnering with's ERT, the EOC and IDI wanted to adopt digital solutions to communicate, coordinate, collect and manage data, to be able to quickly respond to the needs on the ground.

The Challenges

The government of Uganda wanted to ensure citizens' personal data was protected throughout the entire emergency response, and did not violate any national interests or data privacy regulations. Given the time sensitivity of this digital transformation, both the EOC and ERT had to remain flexible and wait for the relevant approvals, but having the utmost stringent data protection policy in the industry was a big contributor to the ability to use the platform.

The EOC team has yet to be able to measure the impact that their digital transformation is having on an operational level, but was able to estimate that using the platform saved them over 30% of time. The team initially started at a more basic level of reporting, which lacked specific indicators that can measure impact, however measuring impact remains a top priority for the EOC as they continue to digitally transform their systems.

The Solutions

Various dashboards and use cases were created with the EOC team, which were then presented to the Uganda National Task Force, and to responding disaster relief organizations. Use cases included: need assessment tools for communities and health clinics; cross organizational collaboration tools for the local and international NGO's; a Malaria outbreak early warning tool (Malaria outbreak is a common risk factor after a flood), and more.

The EOC team sought digital tools to visualize which aid organizations were responding, what areas had already received aid, and which affected areas remained unaided. With the creation of an elaborate digital 4W tool, the EOC gained a better understanding of the situation and was able to more effectively allocate resources. NGOs were able to send in their information with a simple form, and then view a shared dashboard visualizing the information collected from all other stakeholders in the field. In addition, was utilized to create digital use case boards in order to track and analyze the needs, available resources, and damages in affected communities. This enabled the EOC and IDI teams to visualize their response decisions and manage them based on data driven information.

Prior to the digital collaboration, the EOC team relied on pen and paper tools to track the needs and damages in the affected areas. Government-issued printed copies were sent to different colleagues working on the ground, who would then collect the data and send it back. This data would then be entered into an Excel spreadsheet which was in turn emailed to various warehouses and NGOs to check for supply availability. Switching to the tools allowed the Mbale EOC to save approximately 30% of time and resources on repetitive tasks, make the cross-team and cross-organizational collaboration more streamlined, and make sure there is proper data collection, retention and sharing across all stakeholders.

Using fundamentally changed the EOC's operating system, by streamlining all these steps into one use case that was then shared with all relevant teams.

Improving disaster risk reduction capacities and the future

After moving forward from the disaster response stage, the EOC team continues to develop digital tools using Digital disaster risk reduction plans have been created, mapping out future hazards in various districts as well as digitally developing specific response plans for any potential future threats.

A few months after the floods, Uganda experienced an Ebola outbreak, and used the to tailor their own tools for managing the outbreak locations and required response.

Currently, the EOC team is working on incorporating at a district level, within all their systems of operation. Managing their projects and collaborating with different teams, has expanded the EOC’s operating and planning capacities, while also allowing the EOC team to visualize how future partnerships with outside stakeholders can be best utilized.

Continuous Development

As the EOC team continues to digitally transform their operations, they are examining how these digital tools can be scaled to have larger and more synchronized reach both nationally and at a regional level. The EOC acknowledges the potential of to enhance operational proficiency on a national level, as connecting various independent districts is a primary objective for them going forward. And while the Mbale District is benefiting from improved accuracy and timeliness of data, better coordination capacities, increased efficiency and scalability, the desire to share this powerful technology with neighboring districts and regional partners remains a goal for the future.

In December 2022, the's Emergency Response Team returned to Uganda to participate in a national roundtable, advising the government and International NGOs on how they can implement digital tools in their preparation and response to future disasters both at the national level, and in the East African region generally. The ERT will keep assisting with this process as necessary, and is committed to offering expertise and solutions to help these organizations carry out their work as productively as possible.

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