A lot has happened since the last issue of CRJ…
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita gave rise to cataclysmic scenes, a graphic illustration of how communication failure can aggravate an already acute situation.
The earthquake in Asia, which left thousands dead and millions more homeless facing a bitter winter of cold, hunger, disease and crime demonstrates, if any further evidence were needed, just how vital communication is in providing a measured and effective response (p16). Because vast areas were cut off, rescuers and relief agencies were faced with assessing needs without knowing the true extent of the damage. And, as John Holland reports, it is also critical to communicate with local volunteers and family members when conducting search and rescue operations.
Information and communication – at all levels and between all those responding to, or affected by, a disaster – have been highlighted in the World Disasters Report published by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (p7).
But preparedness, education and appropriate and effective warning mechanisms, are only one part of the picture. A one-way process of imparting information and advice is not enough. It is also imperative to listen.
This means listening to communities that are nurturing a grievance – whether perceived or real – before they erupt into violence (p10), and hearing and heeding warnings of disaster. It involves making sure the right assistance reaches the right people, at the right time.
It is time that rivalry, territorialism and media attention-seeking are discarded in favour of true dialogue and co-operation with the people that organisations or rescuers are seeking to help.