Why humanitarians turn to ReliefWeb in emergencies

Yuan-Kwan Chan
Brian Kelly of IOM (top); Adesh Tripathee of Habitat for Humanity International (center); and Sébastien Latouille of Télécoms Sans Frontières (bottom). © ReliefWeb

During the past 20 years, humanitarian professionals around the world have turned to ReliefWeb as their go-to source for information in responding to a disaster or crisis. Several of our users told us why.

Brian Kelly, Regional Advisor for Asia and the Pacific, Emergency and Post-Crisis Unit, International Organization for Migration (IOM):

ReliefWeb has created this niche where if people know that if they get their information there, others are going to read it. Others are going to be able to plan their own decision making, and they’re going to be able to plan their response based on that information. Implementers use it. Donors use it. More and more so, people affected by disasters use it. Because it’s the place where people know information will be used, it’s a place where people want to put their information.

As far as unusual places where I’ve had to use ReliefWeb as a disaster responder, it would normally be a tent. That tent’s probably leaking. It’s cold. The generator’s got a couple minutes of power left. There’s just an opportunity to try to go to one site to gather information, and it’s a matter of being able to grab that information before the generator runs out. If I didn’t have a service like ReliefWeb, then I’d probably have to go to a lot more primary sources. I wouldn’t have it in a one-stop shop, if you will.

Adesh Tripathee, lead disaster risk reduction and response person for the Asia-Pacific, Habitat for Humanity International:

For me, using ReliefWeb is like having coffee every day. It is one of the most powerful tools to help me make great decisions about disaster response.

I used ReliefWeb in Vanuatu, when I was deployed for responding to Cyclone Pam there. We were on an island with little Internet connection, and were trying to get more information about how many people had been evacuated, how many people were living in the camp, and how many agencies were involved in the disaster response. ReliefWeb helped us to find out the gaps and duplications, and where different agencies can work together. So I have been using ReliefWeb in multiple places, multiple times – from normal times to crises.

To save lives, or to respond to people, you need to have the right information in a very, very timely manner. When disasters happen, I look for ReliefWeb Alerts, which immediately gives me active response information, situation reports, news and features, and infographics. This information helps me to really make good decisions or to understand the reality on the ground better.

Sébastien Latouille, Delegate for Asia and the Pacific, Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF - Telecoms without Borders):

At TSF, our focus is to respond to disasters. We use ReliefWeb in the field to share information and get information from other agencies. For example, after Typhoon Haiyan (“Yolanda”) in the Philippines, I used ReliefWeb from Tacloban where everything was destroyed: really flooded, no power, nothing, and yet I still got access to this information. In my response to the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, from a small village in the mountains in Sindhupalchok, we accessed the web from under a tent during our operations there. Everything was destroyed as well at this place, but still we had to get the information, and ReliefWeb was really the go-to sharing platform there.

We also share our own reports. Because TSF does the first assessments on telecommunications infrastructures – what’s working what’s not working, Internet, GSM – we will share our maps and our reports on ReliefWeb for everyone to be able to access it. And then we will look for the first reports from other organizations, see where they are working and what would be their needs.

If I didn’t have a service like ReliefWeb, I wouldn’t have any means to get information on crises, or I would have to go and ask each organization one by one to get information. It’s a lot easier to have one platform where we get all the information we want. Without this service, our work would be a lot slower, and coordination a lot more complicated.

WATCH: Why humanitarians turn to ReliefWeb