Communication is the key in Haiti

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Beneficiary Communications / Haiti / October 2011:  An independent evaluation into the IFRC beneficiary communications program in Haiti has shown just how critical information is to people in the aftermath of a disaster.

Of the thousands of Haitians interviewed, 74% reported receiving information from the Red Cross. Of these, 96% said it was useful information, 83% reported taking action after receiving the information and 73% shared the information with somebody else.

Over the last eighteen months the beneficiary communications program has provided information on a wide variety of topics, from health, hygiene and cholera to weather alerts and hurricane preparedness tips. It has also evolved and increased its focus on two way communications as a way of giving Haitians a voice, ensuring their needs and opinions are represented in the recovery process.

The program uses a variety of old and new technologies. For example a unique SMS system has been used to reach millions of mobile phone users, a weekly radio show broadcasts live to the nation, posters are used in camps, and a local call centre provides beneficiaries with a questions and complaints line.
The evaluation, carried out in June 2011, sought to understand what impact these activities were having on Haitians, as well as to get a general understanding of how people like to communicate.
A key tool: SMS

While face-to-face communication was people’s preferred method, radio and SMS came a close second. In Haiti, the IFRC is pioneering the use of SMS to reach people with practical, simple messages, such as how to make home-made ORS or how to prepare your shelter when a hurricane is coming. People identified health and weather information as being most valuable to them, with many saying they weren’t getting this kind of information elsewhere.

Thanks to a partnership with Trilogy International Partners, who own the Voila network in Haiti, 50 million SMS have been sent since Jan 2010. A quarter of people interviewed reported receiving information from the Red Cross through their phone; 95% found the information useful and 90% reported they changed something in their life as a result of Red Cross information.

Getting feedback

Allowing beneficiaries to ask questions about the services the Red Cross provide is a critical and a partnership with a local call centre lets water and sanitation and shelter recipients ask questions and log complaints. 85% of people interviewed were happy with this service and appreciate the chance to ask questions.

However, only 10% of respondents had communicated back with the Red Cross and this is an area identified as needing more focus. Already measures are being taken to address this. The introduction of a new Interactive Voice Response (IVR) phone line in November will provide people with recorded information and a free and easy way to give their feedback as through surveys they can take part in by touching buttons on their phone.

A global impact

The lessons learned in Haiti and highlighted in this evaluation will have a global impact for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Tools such as the SMS system and the new IVR have the potential to be replicated in new emergencies. Haiti has changed the way the RCRC communicates with its beneficiaries forever. On Tuesday, the evaluation report will be launched in Haiti at an event brining together Government, UN and NGOs.

How we work 

Strategy 2020 voices the collective determination of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to move forward in tackling the major challenges that confront humanity in the next decade. Informed by the needs and vulnerabilities of the diverse communities with whom we work, as well as the basic rights and freedoms to which all are entitled, this strategy seeks to benefit all who look to Red Cross Red Crescent to help to build a more humane, dignified, and peaceful world.

Over the next ten years, the collective focus of the IFRC will be on achieving the following strategic aims:
1.    Save lives, protect livelihoods, and strengthen recovery from disasters and crises
2.    Enable healthy and safe living
3.    Promote social inclusion and a culture
of non-violence and peace