Aid agencies in Haiti battle to maintain media spotlight on quake disaster area

Aid agencies have outlined their plans to maintain media interest in the Haiti disaster as it begins to drop off the front pages of newspapers.

Rescue effort: disaster aid and relief supplies
Rescue effort: disaster aid and relief supplies

Oxfam, Save The Children, Christian Aid and the British Red Cross plan to work up stories around 'key moments' and to target the media with issues-based stories in a bid to ensure the story has 'legs' - and that people keep donating to the disaster relief effort.

'In a couple of weeks the needs will still be huge, but chances are the media spotlight will have moved on,' said Save the Children's director of media Ishbel Matheson.

Oxfam's head of media Sam Barratt said his team had taken lessons from the 2004 Asian tsunami and were making sure they were prepared to launch media offensives around key moments, such as six months, and a year, on from the crisis.

He added: 'By mid-week, many journalists will already feel they have done this story to death, but it's up to us to make stories relevant and interesting.

'Our task is to show evidence of aid delivery and maintain the narrative of impact and change by being creative and effective.'

The British Red Cross' senior media officer Sharon Reader said her team was looking for fresh angles for longer, analytical stories.

'We are working out how we can raise awareness of the big issues and explore them in more depth,' she said.

'For example, taking care of dead bodies is a real issue. We want to avoid burying them in mass graves.'

Similarly, Christian Aid's news and campaigns editor Andrew Hogg said he was searching for different angles by preparing to move his reporter from Port Au Prince to other parts of Haiti. 'We want to get our reporter into other areas to show the sheer extent of the devastation and also to show what aid has been getting through,' he said.

Charity comms chiefs also stressed the use of social media in their response to the crisis.

Save The Children said Twitter had been crucial, while Oxfam's Barratt said: 'This feels like a web 2.0 emergency response, from Skype being our primary form of communication initially to partnering with PayPal and other groups to bring new sources of revenue into the organisation.'


- Andrew Hogg, News and campaigns editor, Christian Aid

'There was a real media hunger to get a first-hand account from a survivor in the early stages. Had we been able to put our people up there, their story would have been everywhere.'

- Ishbel Matheson, Director of media, Save The Children

'This has been Save The Children's first "Twitter" emergency. We used Twitter as a kind of news feed to circulate updates. News outlets and the public have been able to follow the minuteby-minute evolution of our aid effort. It is the first time we have been able to do that.'

7.0 - Magnitude of earthquake on Richter scale

200k - Death toll estimated by Haitian officials as of 19 January

13 - Number of aid agencies in Disasters Emergency Committee

£25m - DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal total by 19 January.

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