Haiti - How aid agencies are communicating with earthquake victims

Aid agencies are facing major communications challenges in Haiti as they attempt to provide critical information to earthquake victims and keep in touch with staff.

Haiti: communicating with victims
Haiti: communicating with victims

Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC), a specialist group set up last April, has members on the ground to establish effective ways of disseminating information in the disaster-hit country.

The group, which includes Save The Children, the British Red Cross, Oxfam, World Vision, the BBC World Service Trust and Thomson Reuters as members, believes that information is aid in itself and can empower communities affected by disaster. By explaining to people where and when aid drops are taking place, for example, it can save lives and may even quell looting.

'This is a new area for aid agencies,' said British Red Cross' senior media officer Sharon Reader. 'Information can be as important as food and water.'

The British Red Cross has a team in Haiti that is working alongside communications staff to help set up IT systems.

Thomson Reuters has set up an emergency information system that allows people to have their questions answered via SMS. Staff are travelling round the country raising awareness of the service. The group is also trying to re-establish local radio stations.

Save The Children's comms in emergency adviser and chair of the CDAC, Jon Bugge, said: 'Even if people's listening habits are disturbed, we know they'll return to where they traditionally receive their news and information.'

Save the Children is keen to get health and hygiene messages out to earthquake victims, alongside information on how family tracing works.

Meanwhile, Christian Aid has launched a campaign to have Haiti's $1bn (£620m) international debt written off.

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