Communicating with, and providing information to, people affected by crises are two of the most important elements of humanitarian response. They are also two of the most overlooked.
The CDAC Network believes that information and communication is aid.
Information can save lives and help mitigate risk. It is essential that the right people get the right information at the right time through the right channels. Knowing what's happening, where to go for assistance, how to avoid further risk, and who to call for help is crucial for a community’s survival and recovery.
Not only this, but communities must play a larger role than simply recipients of aid. People affected by crisis should be powerful actors in deciding how the recovery happens; be able to start conversations with agencies providing aid; have a role in determining what agencies are doing; and be able to provide feedback that is taken into account.
In the midst of a disaster, it is affected communities who have the deepest and most immediate knowledge about their greatest needs.
Communicating with disaster affected communities is a growing field of humanitarian response that helps to meet the information and communication needs of people affected by crises. A #commisaid approach is based on the principle that information and communication are critical forms of aid, without which disaster survivors cannot effectively engage in their own recovery. When people are given the opportunity to voice their opinions and provide feedback, this enhances their sense of well-being and can help them adapt to the challenges they face.
Communication, whether through new information and communications technologies or more traditional means, is therefore essential for the engagement of disaster affected people in humanitarian action – as well as in their own efforts to help themselves.
What is 'Communicating with Communities' (CwC)?
CwC initiatives aim to support people affected by crisis to access information and to communicate with humanitarian responders and each other, in order to stay safe, access aid, begin their recovery, and hold humanitarian agencies and government to account. CwC is a matter of respecting and upholding their human rights.
CwC initiatives include specialist CwC projects, such as interactive radio, and information and communication activities that are incorporated into general humanitarian programming, such as communication to accompany the move from blanket to targeted food aid or different types of feedback activities. CwC initiatives make a point of emphasising coordination to ensure that activities are as effective as possible.
Of greater importance, CwC should enable affected people and local organisations to lead rather than to follow. This will require a culture and mind-set change on behalf of all those involved in delivering humanitarian assistance in order to place a greater emphasis on listening, understanding and prioritising solidarity over charity. Thus CwC holds the promise of empowering local people to have greater autonomy about how they put their lives back together in the aftermath of a crisis.