The internet and modern television have irreversibly changed the way news and information is transmitted. Innovations in technology have led to debates about the future of news, the rapid decline in print media and completely new forms of news presentation.
These technologies have a pervading influence over our lives. If the power goes out or the internet router doesn’t work, minor panics ensue across vast swathes of the population. More than that, these mediums are aware of our habits, our likes and our dislikes and tailor our user experience to match these.
The fact that it can reach people when they don’t have electricity is what makes radio a uniquely powerful and important medium, especially in the realms of humanitarian aid, disaster relief and refugee crises.
In Tacloban, a city in the eastern Philippines that has suffered greatly in the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan, an emergency radio station began broadcasting two days ago. What it is providing is critical, life-saving information that the majority of the city’s inhabitants have, as yet, been unable to access as there is no power to the area. The radio’s eight-hour daily programmes are providing essential information on where to get aid, food and water, missing persons reports and where evacuation centres are located. Moreover, it is currently distributing over 1,000 radios across various neighbourhoods, some of which are solar powered and other wind-up, and many will be attached to loudspeakers for greater area coverage. Essentially, these radio broadcasts are providing specific, focussed, and only the most relevant news, rather than allowing people to rely on the generalized reports and advise that trickles in from other sources.
Radio’s importance in this disaster is emblematic of radio’s continued importance in our world and communications in general. According to Krista Senden, a psychosocial counsellor who provides therapy for displaced persons in emergency situations and has worked in both East Africa and Asia-Pacific,
“People’s levels of anxiety and stress can be significantly affected by not having information or by having misinformation…Information is central for coping with a disaster and allowing people [to] regain a sense of control over their lives.”
There has terrible emotional and psychological trauma in this regard in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Consequently, reports are arising, from sources such as Patrick Fuller, a spokesperson for the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), which suggest people in badly affected areas are taking matters into their own hands and as such looting is on the rise.
Radio is greatly helping in this part of the world where other, in many ways more advanced, technologies can do nothing. It is providing information, comfort and channels of two way communication that are essential to relief efforts.
When we as a human race are hit hardest and there is inconceivable amounts of suffering and pain, the glimmer of hope provided through the hard work of people such as those at this radio station in Tacloban give is renewed faith in the good that still exists in the world.