Emergency Assistance: System of Information Sharing
It has been nearly 3 months in Haiti since the devastating earthquake, unprecedented number of organizations, large and small, has been doing their projects under respective principles. When so many organizations are working in the limited space individually without any kind of coordination, many problems arise: doubling of goods, concentration of organizations in one specific area and thus smaller reach to other places etc. What is then needed to solve such problems, when assistance is in dire need? It is sharing of information among organizations. How is this done in emergency situation?
In emergency times, it is OCHA – Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – that takes the main lead. This UN-related organ coordinates meetings called ‘cluster’ meetings that are categorized into different important sectors, such as shelter, medical care, and education. Cluster meetings are held 3 times per week during the first 3 months after the natural disaster, and 2 times per week onwards. The meetings consist of sharing WHO does WHAT in WHICH camps, WHEN. More complicated discussion and information sharing also take place.
This system of information sharing is always evolving with technology. For example in Haiti, a new system was put in place where all information of each organization active in Haiti are handled in OCHA’s website. Some clusters use interactive software to post up information on online bulletin boards. Organizations that cannot attend meetings and under limited time, such systems are very convenient to implement projects smoothly in chaotic emergency times.
JEN belongs in the shelter cluster, which utilizes Google Earth to publicize detailed information on “WHO distributed HOW MANY of WHAT, WHERE?” By sharing such quantitative information, we can continue our projects safely and efficiently.
OCHA’s website “oneresponse” has much information on such things, not only about clusters, UN, and NGOs. If you’re interested, go have a look at the website!