Q&A: Are humanitarian aid agencies approaching communications all wrong?

An aerial view of the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo by: © UNHCR / Roger Arnold

BANGKOK — By continuing to treat communication as an afterthought, humanitarian aid agencies are failing to adequately pass on vital information to Rohingya refugees now dispersed in camps and informal settlements throughout Cox’s Bazar, according to a recent report from Internews. It is a problem hardly confined to the most recent refugee crisis, warned Internews Senior Director for Humanitarian Programs Anahi Ayala Iacucci, and one with global implications.

When a largely illiterate refugee population balloons from well over 200,000 to 1 million in three months, communication quickly becomes as crucial as it is challenging. And in Bangladesh, humanitarian aid groups are currently communicating with affected communities about services such as food distributions and vaccinations any way they can — through staff at physical hubs, pictorial messaging, and door-to-door visits with interpreters.

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About the author

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    Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is an Associate Editor for Devex. Based on the U.S. West Coast, she works with Devex's team of correspondents and editors around the world, with a particular focus on gender. She previously worked as Devex’s Southeast Asia correspondent based in Bangkok, covering disaster and crisis response, resilience, women’s rights, and climate change throughout the region. Prior to that, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.