Nepal

Open Mic Nepal - Tracking Rumors in Post-Earthquake Nepal

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In May 2015, just weeks after the major earthquake in Nepal, Internews conducted two needs assessment in the afected districts of Sindhupalchowk and Nuwakot. The assessments showed that there was an absence of communication between humanitarian actors working on earthquake response and the local communities. Communities lacked access to information on relief services and how to contact humanitarian organisations. There was also a lack of coverage of the issues faced by affected communities at the local level.

The lack of information on local level created a void, which is filled by rumors. These rumors were not necessarily the result of someone with bad intentions – although that’s possible too – but more often they are the result of sensible people who tie together the bits and pieces of information they have – connecting the wrong dots – mixed with hope and expectations. The result however, fuelled resentment towards aid workers and local media and created tension between communities.

When, for instance people from Dolakha felt aid delivery was taking a long time before it reached their place, a rumor began to spread that aid was delayed because they had white cards instead of a red cards. They also believed that if they had been issued with a red card, they would have been eligible to travel to Canada and Australia for work. In fact the color of the victim ID card had absolutely no bearing on the person’s eligibility for claiming relief or aid. Quite simply, each district chose which color to print the cards on; Dolakha chose white and Gorkha chose red. Obviously people were also keen on finding work, if necessary abroad, to get their life back on track.

Rumors just like this caused uncertainty and anxiety for victims of the earthquake. In the year since the quake, other assessments and evaluations have shown that most people remember rumors from the time right after the earthquake, and in the absence of credible information, most people received information through rumors.