We’re in a midst of a communications revolution that is being driven by both technology and a desire to connect. Both of these factors alter the ways in which Red Cross or Red Crescent societies (and others involved in humanitarian action) can engage with communities before, during and after a disaster.
You might call this crisis communication, community communication or, as the Red Cross Red Crescent tends to, beneficiary communications, but the point is the same: an acknowledgement that people in need of assistance also have a right to know what is being done and also have an opportunity to influence the actions of the organisations that can have such an impact on their lives.
It’s worth looking at some of the results. In Haiti, for example, SMS messages have been used to send important information about flood risks, cholera and gender-based violence to people still living in camps following the earthquake in 2010. In a follow up survey (actually assessing the impact of these things is pretty important too) 96% of people who received messages said it was useful, 83% said they acted on it, and 73% shared the information with someone else, making the spread of information far more effective.
In the Sahel region of Africa, we’re attempting to build up a comprehensive map of operations being undertaken by both local and partner National Societies. This is run on a free, open source platform that allows people to add information using email, a computer or mobile app and then automatically maps it so users can see who and what is going on. I think this information is pretty good for various groups of people: field operatives, journalists, donors, beneficiaries and logisticians who have the job of ensuring the right stuff ends up in the right place.
The video above suggests that during times of crisis, communication is as important as food, water, shelter and medicine. What do you think?