“There really needed to be a system where the most trusted sources of information—local media—can also tap into these international sources of information, and make a connection back to the people.”
- Indu Nepal, Internews project director in Nepal, where Internews and partners developed the OpenMic project after the earthquake to debunk rumors, and address factual misinformation, as well as investigate why certain rumors are so popular.
Thank you very much for your support of our response to the Nepal earthquakes. We were able to achieve so much because of you. Long after the Nepal earthquakes have faded from the headlines, Internews is still putting your dollars to use to support the recovery process. Notably, we are continually running OpenMic Nepal and the #quakehelpdesk project which gathers the information needs of the affected populations, identifies rumors, concerns and misinformation…and counters it with factual, useful information. Information is collected from volunteers and partners who work extensively on the ground, verify the information and present it in these reports to support the work of humanitarian agencies and local media.
OpenMic Nepal is presented by Internews and #quakehelpdesk implemented by Accountability Lab and Local Interventions Group.
This project is helping people rebuild their communities and their lives. We are so immensely proud of this project and grateful to you for supporting it. We’ve just published our 26th Newsletter and Open Mic Nepal report. You can view all of the newsletters here: http://internews.org/our-stories/project-updates/open-mic-nepal
Building back better
After the initial disaster, Internews was on the ground helping people get the information they needed to reconnect with family members, access humanitarian aid, and decide whether or not it was safe to go outside. Now, Internews is helping Nepal build back better. The affected populations continue to have needs and concerns which need our attention. Here are just a few of the question and concerns captured by the OpenMic Nepal project over the last few weeks.
The government released the new procedure for the disbursement of the grant of Rs 200,000 or the cost of building a house, whichever is less, in December last year. Families who lost their houses in the earthquake and do not have an alternative place to live in qualify for the grant. While building houses, households have to abide by the new construction guidelines – and people all around the country have questions and concerns about the process. Open Mic Nepal has gathered and answered questions such as:
"What kind of houses will those who have a small plot of land build?"
- NALANG BAIRENI, DHADING
"Affected people may not be able to build houses according to the government’s guidelines. What can be done then?"
"How are the villagers going to know about the house designs if they are uploaded only on the Internet? They have to bring and teach about the designs in the villages.”
They have also heard rumors. "They say that since the loadshedding hours are increasing, every new house must install solar panels. The government is already providing such panels to the earthquake affected. Households can pay the cost in five years. The interest rate too is only at 2 percent.”
"We heard on the radio and read on papers that the Reconstruction Authority could not be formed because the political parties in the government and in opposition were fighting each other. Why would leaders behave like that? Aren't they accountable to people at times like this?"
-HARTHUMKI PAKHA GAUN, KAVREPALANCHOWK
During winter, exposure to extremely cold weather and lack of appropriate protection can cause hypothermia, which could lead to death in some cases. According to the Ministry of Health 1500 adults are estimated to die of hypothermia each year in Nepal. OpenMic Nepal has gathered and answered questions such as:
"They say people have died from the cold in many places. How are we going to save ourselves from the cold?"
The government has signed agreements with around 88 international and national organizations to reconstruct around 692 schools destroyed in the earthquake. The government has also signed an agreement with the Asian Development Bank to rebuild schools. The schools are selected on the basis of damage as assessed by the District Education Offices. Organizations in the education cluster are distributing winterization kits to school-going children in affected areas. The kit contains a jacket, hat, trousers, socks and a pair of tracksuit. Parents still have concerns about their children, and have concerns such as:
"The damaged schools are not yet reconstructed and children are forced to study at risk."
“The cold weather has affected the school operations and the attendance of students."
We’ve seen questions and concerns like these crop up in communities across Nepal. And, because of you, we are able to answer them. Thank you again for your incredible generosity and support of our mission.
Thank you very much for your support of those affected by the earthquake last April in Nepal. Your support makes a lifesaving difference by helping people get accurate, up to date information that aids them in their survival, and now, recovery efforts.
Since the Earthquake hit, Internews quickly deployed to Kathmandu and the surrounding areas to help restore and improve access to information. Early assessments showed that people weren’t able to access critical information, such as where to access aid, or how to locate loved ones. They also weren’t sure what information was reliable. When people have little reliable information available to them, rumors, myths and misunderstanding spread rapidly, adding greatly to the stress and anxiety of already traumatized people. This is exactly what we saw among Earthquake survivors in Kathmandu and the surrounding areas, and in response to this, we have deployed a band of volunteers with an innovative effective technique called “Rumor Tracking” that helps to dispel these myths and misinformation.
Donors like you helped us to deploy a Rumor Tracker (DeySay) during the height of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and now, your contributions have been pivotal in launching and deploying Open Mic, a Rumor Tracker in Nepal that has helped people with their most urgent questions.
Please see below for a live update from the field in Kathmandu. Thank you again for believing in this mission and dedicating your dollars to this important cause.
Can you stop a rumor?
In Nepal, a band of local volunteers are trying—with SMS, radio, the Internet, and old fashioned door-to-door reporting.
For survivors, the immediate priorities in a disaster such as an earthquake seem clear: Get to safety. Help your family and those around you. Reach the people you love and tell them, “I’m OK.”
But after the initial crisis is over, survivors are faced with a million uncertainties and questions as they try to piece together their shattered lives and communities.
In Nepal, where April’s earthquake left millions displaced from their homes, the road to recovery is long and littered with rumor and misinformation.
“I have heard that the government will issue us passports
and send us abroad for work.”
“The government said it would provide low-interest loans to rebuild houses, but it hasn’t started the process yet. We are confused.”
“People here think the earthquake victim ID cards are useless.”
“All of my neighbors have got Rs 15,000 each and built shelters weeks ago. When I went to the VDC office, they said the money in my name had already been taken.”
Each of these comments came from residents in ten of Nepal’s 14 districts most affected by the earthquake. They all point to a lack of trusted information, or confusion in processes that haven’t been properly communicated. This is typical of the aftermath of crisis situations.
When people have little reliable information available to them, rumors, myths and misunderstanding spread rapidly, adding greatly to the stress and anxiety of already traumatized people.
Volunteers, working with Accountability Lab, Internews, Local Interventions Group and other local partners have launched Open Mic Nepal, a systematic information loop that tracks, investigates, and reports back to local communities on damaging rumors.
The project is built on a combination of shoe-leather reporting and simple technology that allows broader analysis and dissemination of facts. The system was successfully piloted to fight Ebola rumors in Liberia.
Here’s how it works. Volunteers from multiple organizations who are assisting earthquake victims to access aid and services collect and text in the rumors and concerns they hear from local populations as part of their daily routines. A recent OpenMic bulletin was based on conversations with 450 people in a one-week period. The OpenMic team then geolocates, analyzes, and reports on the most pressing or common concerns.
Volunteers from multiple organizations who are assisting earthquake victims to access aid and services collect and text in the rumors and concerns they hear from local populations as part of their daily routines. A recent OpenMic bulletin was based on conversations with 450 people in a one-week period. The OpenMic team then geolocates, analyzes, and reports on the most pressing or common concerns.
The bulletins are also shared with the on-the-street volunteers themselves, to complete the feedback loop, as well as with the wider humanitarian system.
By keeping the rumors intact in the bulletins, the OpenMic project allows local media and humanitarians not only to debunk the rumors, and address the factual misinformation, but also to investigate why certain rumors are so popular. Research shows that rumor mongering can serve a social “sense making function”—a kind of collective problem solving: the analysis of persistent rumors can be very revealing, many are not malevolent and do contain versions of truth. Tracking them provides information about information eco-systems, mistrust, and information gaps left open by government and humanitarians.
While radio is active throughout Nepal, and community radio stations have worked tirelessly to respond to the crisis, they don’t have the manpower to report on every local issue, or the birds-eye view to see what rumors are spreading.
But local media is a critical partner in closing the loop between official communications and the information needs of local communities. Radio stations can translate from Nepali to other local languages (Nepal has 122 mother tongues) and can contextualize stories for local audiences, with the trust they’ve built in communities—trust that official messages from the government or humanitarian agencies might not have.
Aid organizations are often disconnected from local media, and face an uphill battle in communicating with local communities.
“Humanitarians expect people to understand why they are there and what they do.” says Indu Nepal, Internews project director in Nepal. “But that is not the case. Locals see people, often foreigners, are here, and they seem to have means to help, but who are they helping? What are they doing exactly? How long will they be here? What can I expect? There really needed to be a system where the most trusted sources of information—local media—can also tap into these international sources of information, and make a connection back to the people.”
Open Mic Nepal is presented by Internews and #quakehelpdesk implemented by Accountability Lab and Local Interventions Group.
This story originally ran on Medium.
As you may have heard, a second 7.3 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal last week, just east of Kathmandu. Because of donors like you, Internews was already on the ground responding in order to get information out to the affected populations.
We counted on you to support us, and because of your generous response, Internews has been able to respond to the urgent needs of the population and are doing quick assessments of the affected areas, both those shaken by the first, second, and in some cases, both tremors; because of your kindness and your contributions, you are making an incredible impact to these communities.
I am forwarding along a field report from Nuwakot, Nepal, where our response lead, Viviane Fluck has done some assessments of the information ecosystem in order to best address the information needs of the population. It also broadly lays out the needs and threats of the population food, water, shelter, sanitation, and the upcoming monsoon season. It is clear it will be awhile before many of these communities are back on their feet and able to carry on with their normal routines. Because of the anticipated needs, we ask that you please consider making another donation, or if that’s not possible right now, please share our stories and our project with your friends, colleagues, and family members. You know your network best, so use your own words – tell them what this project means to you and why you support it. We are quickly depleting our funds and need your support to continue operating.
Thank you, deeply, for all you do to contribute to this response.
As the situation unfolds in Nepal, the affected populations need quick, reliable information to aid in their survival and recovery. Government officials estimate the earthquake has resulted in more than 7,500 deaths and 16,000 injuries and affected additional millions, with hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed.
On behalf of Internews, thank you for making a donation. In this emergency, you are helping people get the information they desperately need.
Your donations are being immediately put to work. Internews staff are travelling out to the worst affected areas, including Ghorka and Dhading, to assess damage to local radio stations and how to help get them back on air. Everywhere we go, people talk about the worrying rumors they are hearing about quakes to come and also about problems of aid distribution. The multitude of languages spoken in Nepal – more than 120 of them – further contribute to the difficulty of providing all affected people with clear information about the situation.
At Intenews, we know that local media are best positioned to address urgent needs like these. They are trusted resources in their communities, speaking to their neighbors in languages they understand. We are fortunate to work in an environment that supports a robust local radio community – there are many deeply connected, trusted local partners to work with in this response effort. And there’s tremendous potential to enhance their work with tools like an SMS rumor monitoring system and improved coordination and communication with humanitarian responders.
We couldn’t do it without your support. The needs at this point are so great and urgent that they will rapidly deplete the resources Internews has to deploy, so please consider sharing this project on your social networks, email the project link to your friends, family and co-workers, or just bring us up in conversation. We need supporters like you to get the word out.
P.S. Thank you again for your support. When people face their worst moments, information is a lifeline. By making a donation, you are providing a link to information that can truly make a life-saving difference. We thank you for your support.
Below: an update from the field. This story originally ran in Medium.
Humanitarian Information in Nepal—from crisis to agency
In a humanitarian crisis, information is everything. From the moment the quake hit, the world for those in Nepal changed irrevocably. Survivors wanted to know what was happening with their family, their home, their neighborhood. The questions went on from there. Where is it safe? How, when and where can they get food, water and medical help? People are asking their neighbors, checking their mobile phones and social media, and turning on their radios, trying to track the situation and understand how to best make their way forward.
At the moment that the need for timely, hyper-local, trusted information is highest, the established networks are disrupted. Trust can begin to decay and things can begin to go downhill quickly. As the New York Times recently reported, there is a “widespread belief that the foreign assistance was plentiful and being hoarded by officials.” With people living in temporary shelters in the pouring rain and others fleeing the capital, rumors like this can quickly go from damaging to dangerous.
Double information jeopardy
In a heartbeat, the information needs of the affected population have doubled and their access to the information they need has dramatically decreased.
In the aftermath of an earthquake, there is an immediate dearth of information. The electricity may fail, and mobile phones and other means of connectivity may stop working. People are in shock and information on safety and resources is scarce. Then, the situation moves from a dearth to a glut as people fill the void with conflicting information, rumors and frustrations around unmet expectations. While social media and other ICT tools can provide critical assistance (for example, reuniting families), they can also amplify an information chaos and provide fertile ground for more confusion.
Into this pours the international humanitarian response, confronted with the challenge of coordinating multiple services in a chaotic situation. Dozens of organizations begin to send messages regarding their services through a variety of channels—SMS, radio, TV, print. If this information is not coordinated, it can serve to further confuse communities and complicate their already disrupted world with overlapping or conflicting messages. While these messages are critical to the relief effort, ensuring that communication is two-way and opens up a space for questions and dialogue is not a primary focus.
Making sense of the inevitable information chaos in a crisis starts by listening to the affected population. It is critical to find out what information people need and what they are not getting. A parallel track of inquiry examines the local context, what we call the information ecosystem. This local ecosystem will have its own particular nuances, strengths and weaknesses. And perhaps most importantly, its areas of trust and influence.
For example, in Haiti a number of local radio stations survived the earthquake. In order to calm the disruptions taking place at local distribution points, one station put local musicians on air instead of government officials, knowing that these sources would resonate more with the local population. In other situations, we found that people did not trust the local radio station, but they did trust their local pastor. Even though he received his information from the same station, he verified and contextualized the information before he passed it on to the community. The pastor was a critical influencer in this situation.
Finally, we need to understand what people are doing with the information. We need to understand its impact. For this, we believe it is critical to set up feedback loops with local communities.
Community radio offers a powerful and relatively simple way to do this. By sending community broadcasts out with a number that people can text to, it is possible to see trends in questions and understand how people are responding to the information. This enables stations to respond quickly and deal with rumors and misinformation if their broadcasts are misunderstood. Areas of information saturation will become apparent, as will signs that things are getting better.
When people stop asking about food and health issues and start asking about education, you know things are looking up. “When can my kids go back to school?” is a wonderful question.
If journalists didn’t exist, we would have to invent them
In every community, it is critical to work with locals who know the community well, understand how it works, and have been sensitive to community concerns long before the crisis. What we have found, again and again, is that our partners—the local media—are often the best-placed to work with. As radio can reach the largest number of people, local radio journalists are often critical elements in crisis and recovery communications.
But these local media are often not equipped to report in a crisis, and may be unfamiliar with accessing and engaging the international community. In this context, we work with them to gather and share information on community needs to build a common understanding of the situation on the ground. We also connect them to the humanitarian community, so that they can begin facilitating a dialogue on how the assistance and recovery effort is, and should be, conducted. They become the bridge between the two sides.
As these journalists are often affected by the crisis as well, we support them to do their work without worrying about their families. This can be supplying them with batteries, extra phones, charging facilities, or extra stipends to pay friends to stand in distribution lines to collect aid while they work as journalists.
Nepal is considered a pioneer in the local FM radio movement, with the first FM station established in 1996. Since then, small radio stations have come up in the most remote villages, operating on interesting sustainability and community engagement models. Such a network affords tremendous opportunity in understanding and addressing humanitarian needs in even the most rural areas.
From aid to agency
Although challenging during an emergency response, enabling a local population to have a say in critical aid decisions also increases its ability to be stronger and more resilient after the crisis. Our philosophy is to give communities the capacity to take the future in their own hands as soon as possible. In the Pakistan earthquake in 2005, there were valleys in the mountains where refugees had gathered that could not be reached by existing radio stations. In addition to bringing in radio equipment, we helped to create a Pakistani association of five emergency radio stations to reach those valleys. Long after the earthquake, those stations continued to operate and provided critical support to communities, including during the 2007–2008 internally displaced persons (IDP) crisis and the 2010 floods.
If communications in a crisis period are handled correctly, the nature of the dialogue between the humanitarian community and the affected population becomes more informed and constructive. It moves the affected population from passive recipients of aid to active participants in their own recovery.
By ensuring free flows of trusted, local and useful information, we can give communities agency. When we improve the capacity of local radio stations, we find that they naturally evolve from reporting about aid to reconstruction, and then to government accountability and larger political and social issues. It may be hard to think that far ahead when the country is still in crisis mode, but our experience shows that if we manage this stage correctly, the long term outcomes will lead to more resilient communities.
Internews currently has staff on the ground in Nepal conducting an information landscape and media assessment. Results of this assessment will be made widely available. Support Internews’ work through Global Giving.
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