30 June 2011

Communicating for survival

Whether by mass SMS campaigns or face-to-face conversation, getting information to beneficiaries can be critical to their survival. Technology offers new tools. But old questions remain: are they getting the message and how well do we listen?

This Red Cross report provides a first-hand look at communications in emergencies.

SEATED AT HER desk at the IFRC base camp in Port-au-Prince, Sharon Reader brings up a Google map of Haiti on her laptop computer. Scattered over the map are tiny blue markers representing cell phone towers. She selects a group with her cursor, then types a message in Creole and hits “send”. In less than an hour, nearly 24,000 people in the northern town of Port-de-Paix receive an SMS from the Haitian Red Cross Society reminding them to wash their hands thoroughly with soap to protect against cholera.