Information Changes the Lives of Refugees and Humanitarian Workers

World Humanitarian Day on August 19 recognizes and honors the aid workers and volunteers working on the frontlines of crises who risk their lives in humanitarian service.

More than 130 million people, including refugees and internally displaced people, around the world need humanitarian assistance to survive. A very important part of that assistance includes information that people can use to make decisions about their lives, including a feedback loop so that humanitarian aid workers know what kind of information the communities they serve are asking for and need.

Refugees say they need information about where to find food, shelter and medical care; how to obtain asylum; and how to reunite with their families, among other needs.

Keeping them In the Loop

In the Mediterranean, Internews produces a weekly newsletter called In the Loop that explores the concerns and perceptions of people affected by the European Union refugee crisis. Internews documents online and offline feedback gathered from refugees and migrants on a daily basis and provides that feedback to humanitarian organizations with the aim to strengthen accountability and give voice to people in crisis.

“They should provide some security for us. At night young people get drunk here. I am concerned for my teenage daughter,” says an Afghan female, the sole provider for her family.

“I am working with smugglers to feed myself. One would do anything to feed himself, whether it is [selling] drugs or prostitution,” says a Syrian male who is living at a squat site.

Excerpt from In the Loop regarding refugees having to resort to illegal work.

Tracking Rumors

Internews also collects all of the rumors passing among refugees and identifies misinformation and hearsay, responding to it with relevant, factual information.

For example, there was a rumor that all Iraqis were being rejected for asylum in the European Union. The Rumours newsletter addressed the issue by saying:

“Anyone from any country has the right to seek international protection. Asylum applications are decided as per the circumstances for each person and not nationality. When the EU Relocation Program list was updated in mid-July, Iraqis were excluded from the program. If you are from Iraq and have pre-registered or registered for the EU Relocation Program before June 16, you are still eligible.”

example from Rumors newsletter about underage children

Appropriate Technology

People in crisis need information in a form that is accessible and meets their needs. That might mean providing information face-to-face, on a banner, through a megaphone, or via a mobile device. As Rose Foran, senior humanitarian liaison officer with Internews in Greece, wrote in an article for Thomson Reuters Foundation, “Response to mass migration cannot be solved by a singular tool or medium. Instead, the humanitarian community should be thinking of ways to integrate them into a wider information ecosystem.”

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