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Humanitarian crises: Radio saves lives

26 March 2013

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Radio can save lives at these times by providing critical information to affected communities, as well as offering a forum for discussion and dialogue, says a report.

During humanitarian crises people have an urgent need for information. From earthquakes to armed conflicts, affected communities need to know the answers to a number of questions: Is it safe to go home? What is the extent of the damage? Where can I get clean water and food?

Information and communication is vital and can be life-saving to communities affected by crisis. “Poor information flow is undoubtedly the biggest source of dissatisfaction, anger and frustration among affected people” was one of the conclusions of a report on the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004.

Radio can save lives at these times by providing critical information to affected communities, as well as offering a forum for discussion and dialogue. With its ability to reach local and international audiences, shortwave (SW) radio has an important role in delivering news to the most remote communities and providing emergency information and relief during emergencies.

Some of the key advantages of SW radio include the fact that no local license is required to broadcast to the affected community. A broadcaster that already has a contract can easily and quickly add additional hours and the SW transmission sites are often outside the affected area, meaning infrastructure may not be damaged.

Many members of the Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities Network (CDAC) highlight the importance of radio in emergency response through their projects as well as advocating for the need to distribute radios. On World Radio Day (February 13th), we highlight a few of these projects.

Importance of Radio in Emergency Response

The Dadaab Refugee Radio Service is a collaborative project, by Internews Europe and Internews, with Star FM and local young journalists, which services more than 444,000 refugees in Dadaab, Kenya. The service provides crucial community and humanitarian information and enables two-way communication between local communities and humanitarians through regular broadcasts.

In Kenya and Somalia, IMS was involved in establishing the humanitarian radio service Radio Ergo. With daily one-hour broadcasts, the service provides listeners in Somalia and in refugee camps in Kenya with valuable and life-saving information on issues such as health and HIV/AIDS, education, conflict prevention, and emergencies, such as droughts and floods..

BBC Media Action help people affected by humanitarian emergencies cope with the situation and voice their opinions on relief and recovery effort. They support community radio stations around the world as well as providing lifeline programming. BBC Media action recently ran a training in Nepal, about how lifeline radio programming can save lives.

Listen to Ko Ko Aung, from BBC Burmese Yangon, speak about the role of SW radio in response Cyclone Nargis, Burma on the World Radio Day SoundCloud.

FIRST Response Radio is a network of radio broadcasters, NGOs and Government partners that delivers critical information to affected communities in the immediate aftermath of an emergency, using a portable “radio in a suitcase”. Directly after the 2012 floods in Assam, India, the local FIRST Response Radio team had programmes on the air on SW in three days. Where local teams are prepared and licenses are available, a FIRST Response “suitcase radio” team can be on the air in less than 72 hours.

These CDAC Network members support local radio stations in order to encourage communication in affected communities. Local FM can broadcast 24 hours a day, providing a great volume of information to the community. Local studios allow direct access to officials for interviews while operating in the center of the disaster zone. A local station also encourages and allows more feedback from the affected community – which is then passed on to Government and humanitarian groups. Used together, both SW and FM radio can provide critical information to affected community and create two-way communication with the responding community.

SOURCE: Reliefweb

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