As the holiday season descends upon us and people battle to get home in time, millions in Pakistan remain displaced. The aftermath of the devastating floods that hit almost six months ago are still being felt as the outbreak of epidemics, lack of health facilities and shortage of food and shelter affect scores of people. During emergencies one thing in short supply is information, which radio provides. Our solar and wind-up radios are able to provide information to displaced populations on demand.
Infoasaid – a collaborative venture between the BBC World Service Trust and Internews – distributed our radios in the Punjab and Sindh provinces of Pakistan. The two provinces were badly hit by heavy monsoon rains in July, which killed 2,000 and displaced millions more. According to reports, the provinces were not served well by the international community because of their location in relation to the floods.
Making matters worse is the coming cold months. Daniel Toole, UNICEF’s Regional Director for South Asia, recently told reporters that the cold months “will sharply increase the numbers of respiratory infections and malnutrition, two of the biggest killers of Pakistani children.”
While distributing our radios with the help of Save the Children in Pakistan, Infoasaid provided critical in-country advice and support on how the radios are used to obtain humanitarian broadcasts.
Lisa Robinson, senior projects manager of the BBC World Trust Service, said the two organizations travelled throughout the region in November teaching people how to use the radios, advising on what stations to listen to, as well as identifying radio guardians. She said: “The orientation sessions were intended to ensure that staff were aware of the unique issues involved with radio distributions and could make informed decisions about priority recipients and distribution procedures.”
In regards to the radio guardians, Infoasaid chose female health workers associated with the Pakistan Ministry of Health, teachers and community council representatives. There was an even split between male and female radio guardians.
In addition to offering humanitarian programming, Lisa highlighted the radio’s phone charger as a source of income. She wrote: “In some environments, this is an appropriate benefit of radio ownership, especially for women-headed households and other vulnerable groups.” She added that during one distribution, the recipients “applauded loudly” when they learned the radio contained a phone charger.
The remainder of Lifeline Energy’s radios will be distributed in the next year. In addition to the dozens of humanitarian broadcasts already serving the displaced population – including the BBC Urdu Service - Save the Children is currently working on their own radio broadcasts and hope to have it operational by next year.
Lifeline Energy’s radio distribution project in Pakistan was launched immediately following the floods. The radios have already helped inform the displaced, including children living in makeshift tents about the risks of disease, how to prevent sickness and where to obtain assistance. Given that impact the floods will be felt for years to come, our radios will not only provide immediate aid relief, but can also be used as an educational broadcast tool while schools are rebuilt. According to a recent report by Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK, 10,000 schools are in the process of being rebuilt.
Although Lifeline Energy is no longer accepting public donations for this project, we will keep updating this important initiative.