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Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • Actors working on VAWG should discuss how best to ensure effective coordination while maintaining confidentiality. Below are some factors that can improve how a referral system functions:    
    • The urgent needs of a survivor are covered
    • A plan to identify and address gaps in services is developed 
    • An organization is identified as the central coordinating body for the referral network
    • Each service delivery agency in the system has staff dedicated to ensure that survivors referred for treatment receive timely and appropriate care
    • Service providers in the referral system meet regularly
    • A directory of services and organizations within the defined area exists
    • A standardized referral form is in use among all service delivery agencies in the network
    • Referrals among organizations in the system are traceable and their outcomes monitored
    • Referrals are documented at both the referral and receiving points and referring agencies receive feedback when survivors receive services.
  • Establishing a functional referral system can be done by following these four steps:

a.    Collect information about available services in a community. This can be done as part of a rapid or preliminary assessment and should seek to identify where and how women and girls seek and access assistance, as well as the types of barriers that exist, particularly at local health facilities.

b.    Conduct a mapping of these services based on the information collected including, in particular, where quality and survivor-centered services are being provided and by whom (e.g. international or national NGOs, government structures or community-based actors, such as traditional birth attendants). The types of services that may be covered in the mapping are post-rape care, counseling or basic emotional support, and other health and social services. See an illustrative mapping tool.

c.    Put systems in place to develop and support referral system. Service providers must have the tools necessary to effectively and safely refer survivors for support that is beyond the capacity of the organisation. Establishing a functional referral system requires the following actions:

  • Identify a lead coordinating agency, responsible for making sure the referral system functions, and focal points within each service delivery agency in the system.  The lead agency should establish and support linkages between the different service providers, schedule regular meetings to discuss any issues, and develop and update –with input from all service providers—referral forms and a directory of locally available service providers. The lead coordinating agency must have the human resources required to manage the referral system. In an emergency context, the role of coordinating site-specific referral systems may be assumed by a non-service delivery agency such as UNFPA or UNICEF, or an international NGO where these UN agencies are not operational or present.
  • Agree on the roles and responsibilities of each entity in the network
  • Sensitize staff in service delivery agencies in the network
  • Agree on guidelines to maintain confidentiality and shared confidentiality within the referral system
  • Establish agreed-upon mechanisms for referrals and documentation of the referral process
  • Train all relevant staff on the referral system, procedures and tools and distributing these tools.
  • Establish a system to elicit regular feedback and analyze the effectiveness of the mechanism.

d.    Mobilize the community to use and support the referral system:

  • Service providers as well as members of the community should familiarize themselves with the referral system and the services to which they will refer a survivor.
  • Translate the referral system in any local languages and to use child-friendly versions where possible. 
  • Disseminate information about the referral system throughout the community, including through community mobilization, and promotional and public awareness activities.
  • Seek the support of local leaders to use their influence to increase community support for the referral system.