How comms teams responded to news of tragedy

Aid agencies faced struggle to find staff and interviewees in Haiti quake zone.

For most aid agency comms teams, the race to help Haiti began late on Tuesday, 12 January, when news of the earthquake broke.

The teams sprang into action, trying to locate staff and interviewees on the ground and preparing to launch individual fundraising efforts.

By Wednesday afternoon, most of the appeals were already well under way.

But aid agencies' efforts were hampered by the severity of the crisis. Both Oxfam and Christian Aid had staff based in Haiti who were caught in the crisis. Two of Oxfam's staff members were killed, while Christian Aid's office was destroyed.

Internet and telephone lines were down and the airport was shut. Both agencies were unable to give interviews from people on the ground for more than 48 hours.

The Disasters Emergency Committee's appeal kicked in on Thursday, 14 January, demanding a co-ordinated approach from all the individual NGOs. But agencies then had to deal with negative stories over the delayed arrival of aid.

'The media turned borderline negative from Friday; much of the contextualisation has been unfair,' said Oxfam's head of media Sam Barratt. Comms teams focused on explaining the scale of the disaster, lack of infrastructure and absence of UN co-ordination.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in