Research that placed the information needs of earthquakes affected communities in sharp focus has concluded that communicating with disaster affected communities needs to go far deeper, be more aware of the needs of different audiences and do more to close the ‘feedback loop’. A briefing on the CDAC Network research, ‘Are You Listening Now?’, was given at the City University, London at an event hosted by the Department of Journalism’s Humanitarian News Review Group. The lead researcher, Margie Buchanan- Smith said that while there was a close correlation in the early days of the response between the information being provided and the needs of people, seven months later there was an overwhelming demand for more information on what the government was doing about cash handouts or shelter. This, she said, raised the question about the relationship in such circumstances between international agencies and government. The research also highlighted that women in particular preferred to hear information in face to face engagements yet international responders tended to use radio and other mass media. In rural Nepal, being able to sit and listen to the radio is a luxury for most women. A briefing paper on the findings is available (here)
Nev Jeffries who is a Humanitarian consultant for UK Aid said there is a commitment to communicating and engaging with communities as it creates effectiveness and may assist accountability but there remains an issue about getting this into emergency preparedness planning. He also said there was still a need to bring this thinking and action into humanitarian systems.
Stijn Aelbers of Internews presented about the ‘Open Mike’ project that was quickly established in Nepal to track what people were saying and bring that information into the policy level of the response. BBC Media Action was disseminating information about what to do in an earthquake within hours of the disaster and Theo Hannides explained the lengths the organisation goes to try and evaluate their activities highlighting a recent report that considered four recent interventions, including on Ebola in West Africa. (here)
In conclusion Margie said that the people they spoke to felt in general that their information needs had not been met and that they had not felt consulted or involved in the response to the disaster that had changed their lives. The research, she hoped, would do more to put the ‘human back into humanitarianism’.
‘Are You Listening Now’, is due to be published at the end of May. The foreword is by Kumar, B.K. a sixteen year old wife and mother who explains how fears for her then unborn child, rumours and a lack of information inevitably created even more stress. Even now she would like to hear more information about daily questions that arise as she struggles to make ends meet under canvas sheeting and yes, she would like to hear more ‘face to face’.