Over one year after an unimaginable catastrophe, worldband radios rushed into a disaster zone continue to improve the lives of people in need in Haiti.
When the 7.0 earthquake struck on the morning of January 12, 2010, it devastated the capital of Port Au Prince and the surrounding area, claiming the lives of more than 230,000 and shattering those of millions more. The impoverished country’s already inadequate infrastructure was largely destroyed, with one crucial exception: radio communications.
While most Haitian media were knocked off the air, radio station Signal FM was able continue broadcasting to an audience of nearly three million throughout the crisis. It helped victims reconnect with loved ones, identify aid and supply locations, and calm a terrified population. With re-establishing broadcasting capability a top priority, other radio outlets quickly joined Signal FM in its efforts.
In response to the tremendous humanitarian need, Ears To Our World expanded its mission of providing self-powered world band radios to schools and communities in the developing world to include sending radios for disaster relief. In the immediate aftermath, ETOW, working with its manufacturing and logistics partners, Etón Corporation and Operation USA, shipped 400 of these receivers to Haiti.
The importance of radio access in disaster situations cannot be overstated, and the results getting receivers into the hands of those in need are both immediate and enduring. According to the Knight Foundation, a non-profit organization that advances journalism in the digital age, radio was “the undisputed lifeline for the Haitian public after the earthquake.” In a recently released report, “Media, Information System and Communities: Lessons from HAITI,” the Foundation asserted, “Of all the available humanitarian information tools, radio was the most effective means to share information with the community and to distribute information to affected populations.”
“Radio is Haiti’s dominant medium,” the report stated, “Access to radio can be shared easily and relatively cheaply among many people, and serves both literate and illiterate populations. According to the CIA World Factbook, Haiti has over 250 commercial and community radio stations; a 2009 Voice of America survey describes radio receiver ownership as virtually universal.” Aware of radio’s vital role, the aid community embarked upon the mass distribution of receivers to affected populations to guarantee access to information.
Thanks to the generous support of our partners and donors, ETOW was able to be a part of that effort. We’re pleased to learn that the radios we sent provided critical support not only during the initial phase of disaster relief, but also as the humanitarian crisis continued to unfold, and today still as communities struggle to recover.
As E. Marilyn Lowney, Executive Director of the Haitian Health Organization, which distributed many ETOW radios, recently told us, “When important events or emergencies occur, people gather around available radios for news. Often 15 or 20 people gather around one radio. Public health messages are usually relayed on the radio. When the scourge of cholera recently struck Haiti, health messages and instructions for prevention, proper sanitation and treatment were widely broadcast. The radio saved many lives in our area when Hurricane Tomas struck in November and when cholera threatened to devastate the population.”
“Radio is essential in Haiti,” Ms. Lowney said. “The extreme poverty in Haiti precludes access to electricity, and so many things taken for granted in the USA are unavailable in Haiti…Television and Internet are unknown in the rural villages. This makes reliance on radio, especially self powered, very important.”
“Haiti needs more radios,” Ms. Lowney continued. “Every household should have a solar or a wind-up radio.”
This is why we do what we do. Thank you for helping to make it possible.