Haiti:On Jan. 12, 2010, a
magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake devastated Haiti. It was the worst quake in the
country’s 200-year history.
the total death toll remains unclear. Authorities believe that more than
200,000 people died, more than 300,000 were injured and up to 30 percent of the
country’s 10 million residents were affected, with half of this number losing
The RadioTele office, destroyed. All photos courtesy of
the quake hit, radio had been a vital lifeline for Haitian residents. About 300
stations broadcast on the island nation, with more than 50 based in the capital
of Port-au-Prince, a city ravaged by the disaster.
quake, many stations were knocked off-air by building collapses and the loss of
electricity. Still, others managed to soldier on, helped in their dissemination
of life-saving information by Internews.
in Arcata, California, Internews is an international non-profit agency that
trains and supports third-world journalists in reporting vital information to
When the quake
The Internews Haiti
office is located in Petion-Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. When the
earthquake roared through, Internews-Haiti project director Philippe Allouard
was riding a mototaxi home from work. (A mototaxi is a motorcycle on which the
paying passenger sits perched behind the driver.)
As the ground
shook, “We stopped the motorbike on the side, and waited,” said Allouard. Then disaster
“I went to
assist a dying young man,” he said, “then had to run as a flash flood took over
this street — cisterns and swimming pools having broken on the Montana hill. My
driver alerted me about the flood, started the motorbike, picked me up and we
ran away leaving the others, who actually drowned.”
On Jan. 13, “I
started setting up the emergency program response of Internews, and received an
expat team a few days later,” he said. Internews also distributed “9,000 windup
radio sets offered by the U.S. Army through our partner stations,” so that
Haitians could get access to the news they needed without requiring electricity
RadioTele is set up outside.
distribution infrastructure was tenuous at best before the quake hit. Local television
broadcasters primarily aired movies from the United States, DVDs and satellite,
while the majority of Haitians did not rely on the Internet for news and
information. All that really mattered were radio and newspapers.
crippled newspaper production, leaving radio as the population’s main source of
information. With the cash-poor government knocked off-balance, someone had to
fill the balance to use radio to deliver life-saving emergency information.
Internews stepped in with its daily Creole radio program, “Enfòmasyon Nou Dwe
Konnon,” ENDK, or “News You Can Use.”
broadcast on Jan. 21, ENDK provides critical information about public health,
water distribution, sanitation, relocation of refugees, disaster preparedness
and a host of other topics. Internews staff produces the program in
collaboration with local radio stations and humanitarian agencies. Due to the fractured
state of Haiti’s infrastructure, ENDK is distributed via CDs to radio stations,
To date, more
than 500 ENDK programs have been aired over more than 40 Haitian stations — and
people have been listening. According to Internews’ research, 80 percent of
Haitians surveyed knew about ENDK just a month after its launch. By July 2010,
100 percent of those asked knew the show and its content, an impressive result
by any broadcaster’s yardstick.
Assessing damage at the RadioTele office.
The show has
become a mainstay of Haiti’s ongoing recovery efforts and a trusted source of
information for the island’s residents. These days, its main topics include
reconstruction and public health, including dealing with the ever-present
threat of cholera.
as ENDK can vanish when aid agencies shift priorities. This is why Internews is
training local journalists and producers to create this kind of fact-based,
useful information on their own. The goal is “to ensure that such vital
programming will not disappear in the future,” said Allouard. His nonprofit
agency also is helping local broadcasters deploy and use IT-based audio
production and editing systems, and teaching crisis communications skill to
broadcasters and Haitian authorities.
meantime, two years after the quake, Internews continues to produce and
distribute ENDK, and intends to do so for the foreseeable future.
“To this day,
Haitians refer to the program to get vital information,” said Allouard. In
fact, in a nation still struggling to get back on its feet, radio remains the
most reliable and available medium.