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How can humanitarian broadcasting help support recovery from crises?

Theo Hannides

Humanitarian Media Trainer, BBC Media Action

When disaster strikes – whether in the form of an earthquake, conflict or epidemic – people need the right information to understand what is happening and how they can best respond. In recent years, the humanitarian community has increasingly recognised the importance of providing accurate and trusted information and using communication in crises. However, there is very little evidence available of what actually works best in information and communication responses to emergencies, not least because it is so difficult to do robust research. BBC Media Action’s recent report looks at how to meet these challenges and, by synthesising research from across four of its emergency responses, adds to the evidence base of what does and doesn’t work.

The BBC began delivering media and communications interventions in 1994, when it set up a new language service after the Rwandan genocide to provide ‘Lifeline’ communications to families who had been separated.

Since then, BBC Media Action (often with the BBC) has carried out 28 such responses, providing critical information to people affected by humanitarian crises and disasters. Independent evaluations of our work have shown that these communities not only value but need information – to understand what’s happened, where their family and friends are and how they can get the best available help. In short, this information plays a critically important role in saving and rebuilding lives during and after a crisis.

However, we have also learned that it’s extremely difficult to know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to: best practice around working effectively with communication partners, the types of information people need as a crisis evolves and rebuilding begins, the formats they need it delivered in and how best to facilitate their communication with the relevant authorities.

To address this, we have synthesised our findings from four of these interventions into a single report, Humanitarian Broadcasting In Emergencies – a synthesis of evaluation findings. It draws on our responses and subsequent learning based on work we did: in Nepal following the earthquakes in 2015; with Syrian refugees; amid the 2014 conflict in Gaza and during the 2015 Ebola outbreak in west Africa.

In this short film, the report’s author, Theo Hannides, expands on the challenges for development researchers in measuring the efficacy of media interventions. She also explains what this report contributes to the evidence base around information and communication, which is used by the media development sector – as well as the wider development sector – when designing humanitarian responses.

Introductory text by James Deane, Director of Policy and Learning at BBC Media Action.

Theo Hannides is a Humanitarian Media Trainer at BBC Media Action. She prepared this report in her capacity as Research Manager, focused on the areas of resilience and humanitarian response, based in the Research and Learning team in London.