Dear Mikael and Matthew
Thanks for your posts. I'm picking up on the idea of a "smyposium" on new media and communicating with disaster-affected communities, and the idea of participation. There is a lot of discussion and activity on this currently in the humanitarian sector, particularly with initiatives such as the CDAC Network (which was operational in Haiti - see http://www.cdac-haiti.org/) and infoasaid (see http://infoasaid.org/).
There is increasing recognition within the humanitarian sector that when disasters strike, people need information as much as they need food, water, shelter, etc, and that by providing the right information at the right time, from the right source, lives and livelihoods can be saved. At the same time, if people have access to useful information during disasters they can make their own choices and decisions, and become more active participants in the process of their own recovery and claiming their rights. So it's about participation, yes, but goes beyond that by explicitly recognising people's right to information (and the power that information brings), and our own accountability as humanitarian actors.
ActionAid is currently partnering with infoasaid to mainstream communications with disaster-affected communities in our emergency preparedness and response. As part of the partnership we initiated a communications project in Isiolo, Kenya, as part of our wider response to the drought and food crisis. The project has two key aims:
1. To reduce food insecurity through the provision of relevant and timely information on food and livestock prices
2. To improve the speed and effectiveness of two-way communication between ActionAid and the local population, and so improve the efficiency of ActionAid's emergency programming
The project provided 250 community membes and 30 Food Monitors (employed by ActionAid to oversee food distributions) with mobile phones. Using Frontline SMS and Freedom Fone technology, along with more low-tech communications channels such as community bulletins, information is relayed from ActionAid to drought-affected communities. At the same time community members can use their mobiles to contact ActionAid regarding our activities or anything else, eg. security concerns, reports of disease outbreaks, reports of rainfall, enquiries about weather patterns, etc. The project also has a data management component in that Frontline SMS is used to speed up data collection from the field through specially designed "forms" which are sent via text message through the Frontline SMS system.
You can read more about the project here http://www.actionaid.org/stories/frontline-sms-pastoralists-check-stock-prices-their-mobiles or I'd be happy to email across more information - you can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some other useful resources on communicating with disaster-affected communities:
- Let them speak; Best practice and lessons learned in communication with disaster-affected communitis, Haiti 2010 - http://www.alnap.org/node/7979.aspx
- IFRC beneficiary communications evaluation, Haiti - http://www.ifrc.org/Global/Publications/disasters/reports/IFRC-Haiti-Beneficiary-Communications-Evaluation-EN.pdf
Matthew, ActionAid would certainly be interested in participating in some sort of event/symposium on this area of work in Nairobi - let me know if you'd like me to link you with colleagues in our Kenya office. I'm sure colleagues from the infoasaid consortium would also be keen on this.
Emergencies Information Officer
International Emergencies and Conflict Team
Tel: +44 (0)20 3122 0538