Mobilizing the humanitarian aid industry

A U.S. sailor consults with local citizens during a humanitarian mission in Japan. People affected by disasters are almost always the last in the communication chain, says Timothy Large of Thomson Reuters Foundation. Photo by: Kevin B. Gray / U.S. Navy / CC BY

The multibillion-dollar humanitarian aid industry is missing a leg — communication.

Timothy Large, editor of three news services at Thomson Reuters Foundation, said that often, relief agencies and aid workers don’t bother to talk to the very people they are helping. He said people affected by disasters are almost always the last in the communication chain.

There are plenty of opportunities to break this monotony — which is important — especially with the increasing popularity of mobile technology. On average, 200,000 text messages are sent every second worldwide.

Aid agencies as well as the United Nations need to employ the use of technology — and use it well — in their system, for greater efficiency and to stay on top of the game. Paul Currion, a consultant specializing in information management and humanitarian coordination, worries that otherwise, the aid community could end up like the record industry — “still staggering along, still providing services, but increasingly irrelevant.”

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.