Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: Raisa Chowdhury/ICCO Cooperation/ACT Alliance
Noting that communication is as critical as food, water, shelter and medicine in a humanitarian crisis, the London-based Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities Network (CDAC) has launched a guide on how to improve people’s access to information and keep them connected during disasters and conflicts.
WACC, a member of CDAC, participated in and co-sponsored the publication of the guide, Collective Communication and Community Engagement in humanitarian action: How to guide for leaders and responders. The guide was launched February 5, during the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week in Geneva.
On its website, CDAC says the guide “brings together decades of best practice in supporting communities and affected populations [by ensuring their full participation] in the humanitarian assistance they receive.”
The guide describes the framework, minimum actions and services for communication and community engagement and emphasizes a collective approach “where humanitarian actors coordinate, collaborate and are held accountable for their actions.” It offers practical tools on how to implement minimum actions and services, set up national, multi-stakeholder platforms and provide leadership during humanitarian emergencies.
The guide notes that even as humanitarian situations continue to rise worldwide, surveys have shown that affected communities “do not feel sufficiently involved in decisions that impact their lives.” It cites the example of a 2017 survey conducted in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where 77% of Rohingya refugees said they did not have enough information in a language they could understand to help them make informed decisions during the 2015 crisis.
At the minimum, the guide says, people need to know where they can go for help, what dangers they ought to be aware of, how they can find missing family or connect with friends, what they can do if help is not reaching them and how they can report an issue or file a complaint when problems arise.
“Insufficient or conflicting information can cause confusion, risk safety and worsen feelings of isolation…If we are not engaged in decisions about the response we can feel like bystanders, not to mention being powerless to complain or report abuse,” the guide notes.
“Just as we plan the delivery of tangible aid, we need to understand, plan, fund and deliver communication – in languages, methods, and technologies – that helps and empowers the communities we serve,” says Sara Speicher, WACC deputy general secretary, who contributed to the guide’s foreword. “When we put communication at the heart of our response, not only do we gain in efficiency, we support resiliency, dignity and community empowerment.”
The guide is intended primarily for practitioners and leaders in national and international humanitarian and media development organisations and those involved in emergency preparedness, response and recovery.
A copy of the guide can be downloaded here.