Slowly but surely, the debate whether we should talk to disaster affected people or whether we should communicate with them is being won by the “with” camp.
If you find yourself in need of another example that shows how important it is to involve communities in all aspects of communications, take a look at “Engaging Communities in Emergency Responses: Lessons from the Ebola Outbreak in Liberia”. The report by the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative shows clearly that involving the communities was essential, particularly since trust was one of the key challenges.
“Communities and their leaders had to be engaged in the entire process—from creation and buy-in to ownership and action (…). Local networks of trusted community leaders were engaged to inform and work with their communities to ‘eliminate the transmission of Ebola, and play a positive role in their community during this challenging time’ (…). Clear, consistent, honest, and culturally sensitive communication and messaging, such as the ‘Ebola is Real’ and ‘Ebola must Go!’ campaigns, and social mobilization activities were crucial for increasing individual and community knowledge and reducing risk behaviors and stigma.”
The report also discusses how initial messages like “Ebola kills” and “Ebola has no cure” were detrimental, because they were too negative – people didn’t see the point in going to the hospital after being told that there was no cure.
It’s a well-done report that looks into many aspects of the response, including coordination and the use of certain technologies such as SMS or WhatsApp. If your work involves mobilising communities or communicating with communities, you should take a look!
What are your thoughts on the report? Please leave a comment below!