TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte (PIA) — About a hundred information officers coming from various offices of the government all over the region, including some private media, gathered at the Ritz Tower here for two days last week, August 6-7, and discussed the role communication played before, during, and after disasters.

Also taken up was the right to information as a basic and constitutional right especially following days after a calamity strikes, when hunger for accurate news and information also longed by victims and survivors alike.

The activity was undertaken by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Office for Coordination on Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), Communications with Communities CwC), and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

Speaker, mostly from UN-organized bodies, took turns driving home the point that proper communication can be equated as aid in itself, a valuable measure when duly carried out and acted accordingly.

The communication process, which starts from a source or various sources, went through various channels using the conventional tri-media, to reach the intended receiver who are mostly the stricken communities; the process reverses, feedback noted from receiver’s end, to asses if indeed the higher purpose of alleviating victims’ and survivors’ plight was served as planned.

But humanitarian organizations, the sources, also turn to the social media to gather information on latest updates, get fast and immediate feedbacks on actions taken, and whatever needs to be done on the ground, the feedback mechanism serving as reality check, said JB Briones of IOM.

In addition to broadcast radio, TV, and newspapers, humanitarian responses can also be uploaded on facebook and twitter, ensuring real-time comments, Briones said, even as he advised social media users to be positive in their postings.

However, two studies on communication and disseminating or sharing information in Yolanda-hit communities in Tacloban City reported that victims and survivors clamor for face-to-face contacts with humanitarian non-government organizations (NGOs).

The studies, one conducted by a Tacloban-based group and another by an outsider, also found out the need to have a human face for the NGOs, someone they can relate to over time, and not just a fly-by-night data gatherer that exploits their situation. (AJC/MMP/PIA8-Southern Leyte)