University of Adelaide Creates Communications Toolkit for Emergencies in Developing Countries
Monday, August 21, 2017 | Comments

Working in partnership with UNICEF, Australia’s University of Adelaide researchers created a best-practice toolkit to help developing countries rapidly generate and implement life-saving communications plans in the event of local emergencies.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide’s School of Social Sciences partnered in 2016 with UNICEF Madagascar and East and South Africa Regional Office (ESARO) to develop the Communication for Humanitarian Action Toolkit (CHAT).

This simple resource enables authorities to rapidly generate effective, best-practice local emergency communications plans. It’s already making a difference in the African nation of Madagascar, recently devastated by Cyclone Enawo.

“In 2016 we worked with UNICEF representatives and Madagascar’s National Office for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction (BNGRC) to establish a national emergency communication network,” said Professor Andrew Skuse, lead researcher on the project. “We then conducted extensive training across all levels of the network in CHAT’s use, and when Cyclone Enawo approached the island’s northeast coast earlier this year, the government of Madagascar put the toolkit into action.”

Making landfall March 7, UNICEF’s initial assessments indicated 81 killed, 253 injured and 246,842 displaced. But Skuse believes this could have been far worse without CHAT.

“Our toolkit has been used extensively to promote lifesaving actions through the development and dissemination of messages and materials on flooding, health, nutrition, water and sanitation,” he said. “It’s also helping responders gain enhanced situational awareness of the emergency, and respond to it, via the most effective communications channels.”

To ensure CHAT’s continuing effectiveness, the University of Adelaide-UNICEF team is conducting ongoing assessments in Cyclone Enawo-affected sites to identify additional communications needs. It’s also training volunteers in interpersonal communications techniques, and producing French and Malagasy (Madagascar’s national language) versions for other entities and partners contributing humanitarian assistance.

“Much of this project has been ground-breaking,” said Skuse. “So we’re keen to now conduct additional research on CHAT’s impact, and its potential to be scaled up for use throughout the UNICEF ESARO region and beyond.”

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