The power of communication-A A +A
I have issues
Thursday, April 3, 2014
HUMANITARIAN aid efforts are always encapsulated by what is deemed as tangible and material.
It is very easy to expect that the first set of responses to any emergency situation be it disaster or conflict related is going to be food for the hungry, shelter to the homeless and an area of protection for the exposed and vulnerable, as someone who is currently exposed to disaster-relief and recovery operations we are mostly hard pressed for what the real value of communication is in most of our programs.
This isn’t something unnatural, people mostly expect the material things to be handed out when it comes to aid, but is communication really only a mouthpiece mechanism to inform people? Or is there anything more it could do? Or anything more that it has to do?
Conventional structures for most organizations that have any program position their communication staff for one task, explain the program of the organization, explain the process, and make materials that help expedite the process and flow of distribution and delivery.
When we shift to media outlets, the orientation isn’t that different either, they observe, detect and report. Sometimes these vehicles have some kind of feedback system; they ask people around but only with a particular interest to make their original mandate to simply inform and report get larger viewership.
This isn’t entirely a bad idea, but the orientation is different when you start realizing how communication is being underutilized under this system. Information is as important a resource as the aid being delivered. While the governments and various organizations have provided emergency assistance, there remain the gaps of where these programs are going, how it is being done, and how can people affected can access it. Questions that when left unanswered reduce the quality of assistance, this is where we end up with gridlocks, and spoiled canned goods.
Knowing what happens next is important to displaced person, in these situations the darkness of a disaster is made much deeper when they remain uninformed. Information is becomes the light to that darkness, and the information aid builds capacity and resiliency, knowing what to do next, what steps to take. The lines that connect the dots are as important as the dots themselves.
So this means communication has to come full circle, feedback is important not to merely improve services but also to create spaces for accountability, sometimes a lot of aid agencies have great ideas when it comes to helping communities, but with very little consultation they can often be misguided efforts that could worsen problems.
Say if we simply gave out food to communities without inquiring whether food was their real need, or if we just simply gave it to anyone when there are cultural – community hierarchies that we should have considered, these create tension, and often put organizations that want to help in a much more difficult position to progress their programs.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 03, 2014.