Survivors of humanitarian disasters are forced to leave their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs. That’s true for Syrians escaping conflict, for families fleeing to a shelter before a typhoon strikes, or getting out of a house during an earthquake. Suddenly displaced, proud, hardworking people lose everything and require help for the most basic of needs: food, water, medicine and shelter. And no less important is the need for information. Communication is aid.
Radio stops rumours
No other medium is as powerful and as important during times of crises than radio. Radio saves lives.
Radio speaks to people in a language they understand. It’s an efficient and effective way to inform in the quickest possible time. Radio delivers critical messages to survivors and helps aid organisations with a coordinated response on the ground. In any emergency, rumours are rife, making the need for accurate and trusted information all the more important.
Although natural disasters may not discriminate between rich or poor, the poor suffer far greater loss. They lose the few assets they own. Survivors lack insurance, may already experience health problems, and their country may not have infrastructure necessary to deliver aid quickly and efficiently. Even the America, the recent flooding in Texas demonstrated this.
Working in emergencies
For more than 18 years, Lifeline Energy has been involved in many humanitarian emergencies – the Mozambique floods of 2000 (picture above), the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Haiti earthquake, the Pakistan floods, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
These calamities alone have killed hundreds of thousands and displaced more than a hundred million people. In each instance we’ve provided either our large solar and wind-up radios or portable self-powering radio-lights to displaced populations. LED lights are vital at night to help provide security, especially for women and children. In some disasters we’ve worked on the ground with partners. In others, we’ve worked through local aid organisations and international relief agencies.
Why solar plus wind-up power is essential
In an emergency, having a solar radio that winds up makes a huge difference. If the sun isn’t shining, a winding system has repeatedly proven to be an important back-up power source. Offering displaced populations devices that need costly disposable batteries, which are likely not to even be available, is not sustainable. People want and need information on-demand in a crisis – from where and when aid will be distributed, to how to find/locate missing loved ones, where to go and places to avoid, as well as weather reports. One also cannot underestimate the psycho-social support that music provides. In the Japanese tsunami, people also want daily updates on the status of the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant and its radiation levels.
Emergency response is one of the reasons why we created our the MP3-enabled Lifeplayer. It can provide displaced populations with unlimited hours of educational and informational access anytime, anywhere, to anyone. Children can be organised immediately around lessons in their own language. Given its excellent sound quality, the Lifeplayer easily accommodates 40 or more listeners. Radio broadcasts can be recorded for listening later and people can record their own stories of their survival for generations to come.
Preparing for the next emergency
When a humanitarian disaster strikes, we’re immediately contacted by a host of relief organisations, the UN, corporates wanting to help or even national governments – all asking for our products right away. Lifeline Energy, a lean charity, or even our company, Lifeline Technologies, understandably cannot tie up its funds in inventory for disasters.
For years we’ve done our best to persuade large donors to fund a stockpile that would allow our products to arrive as soon as possible, and not weeks later when vital information needs have been unmet and more lives may have been lost. Major aid depots are located in Dubai, Panama, Italy, Hong Kong and elsewhere, which make dispatching goods a fairly straightforward process.
Lifeline Energy stands ready to work with others around the world to share our conviction to increase our disaster preparedness for the next humanitarian emergency, wherever that may be.
“I saw immediately the impact such a radio could have on impoverished peoples in Africa and the world.” — Tom Hanks