Hurricane season: Red Cross begins massive SMS campaign in Port-au-Prince

Published: 25 August 2010

The Red Cross is this week sending hundreds of thousands of SMS across Port-au-Prince in an effort to help people prepare themselves for the hurricane season.

The campaign, called Evite Miyo Pase Mandé Padon (Prevention is better than cure) started on Tuesday 24 August and will run for six days. Each day people will receive a message that includes clear and simple information about how people can reduce their vulnerability to hurricanes, floods and landslides.

“Having access to information is absolutely critical for Haitian people right now,” said Dr Jean-Pierre Guiteau, Executive Director of the Haitian Red Cross. “The country is bracing for a bad hurricane and rainy season. The information that we are getting out to communities, although simple, can make a huge difference.”

Officials have warned of an above average Atlantic hurricane season, predicting 8-12 hurricanes, with 4-6 major ones.

This campaign has already been rolled out in Port de Paix and over the coming weeks it will continue to all other parts of the country. New messages will also be sent that will give people information on what they need to do during and after a disaster.

The messages are sent out to all Voilà mobile phone subscribers through a platform that has been developed specifically for the Red Cross. Voilà is one of Haiti’s largest telecommunications providers and has developed a web-based platform that allows the Red Cross to send SMS through their country-wide network.

“This system means that we can talk directly to people and give them information in a format that they understand and can use,” said Mamadou Dian Bah who is coordinating the disaster preparedness efforts of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“It also means that we can get feedback from communities. By responding to our messages, people help us better understand their needs and help us better tailor our assistance.”

The SMS system will also contribute to country-wide disaster preparedness contingency planning that is being led by the Government’s Directorate for Civil Protection (Direction de la Protection Civile – DPC). In the event of an official warning or evacuation, it will relay information to at risk communities.

More on the Haiti earthquake operation.

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