Starting the Conversation: A Step in the Right Direction

By Amy Rhoades

The meeting about the typhoon response had just ended. As I walked down the devastated streets of Tacloban, I heard two young girls singing a familiar chorus:  “We’ve been through a storm but we’re not defeated. We all carry pain but are ready to move on. We’ll build a new life together, a safe place for everyone. Building strong foundations so we can stand,” they sang (in Waray, the local language of Tacloban).

I smiled. They were singing Tindog Kita (‘Rise Together’ in English), a song by IOM about how to build back safer after Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in November 2013.  They knew the words and liked the melody. This was a real-life test of our communications campaign and it was working.

At the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan (8/11/14), IOM has a new report assessing its Communications with Communities (CwC) efforts to engage the affected population in the months following the disaster.

The report ‘Starting the Conversation: Information, Feedback and Accountability in Post-Typhoon Philippines’ shares findings and recommendations from an in-depth assessment of IOM CwC activities following the storm – one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, leaving a trail of destruction and at least 6,300 people dead.

The assessment was conducted in collaboration with Leyte Normal University in Tacloban and is based on 400 face-to-face interviews, as well as telephone interviews and focus group discussions with community members.

It examines the communications preferences in Tacloban during the emergency and recovery phases, identifying radio as the most accessed and preferred media channel following the typhoon.

People were also asked key questions about their engagement following the typhoon. Most people interviewed felt that they did not receive sufficient aid-related information after the storm, nor did they have a sufficient voice in the humanitarian response.

The report also reviews several communications tools developed and disseminated in collaboration with Tacloban’s Radyo Abante. These were part of IOM’s Tindog Kita (‘Rise Together’) communications campaign, which included a radio drama, interactive talk show and a key message song.

Hearing the girls singing the song that day points to one of the key findings from the assessment - that the song developed jointly with Health Songs International was the most popular and widely known of the Tindog Kita communications components.

After listening to the girls sing, I walked over to talk to them. They explained that they had heard the song on local radio and one girl’s brother had even downloaded it on his phone. When asked what the song meant, they replied, “It tells us to stay together. It also reminds us to be stronger than we usually would be.”

To download the report, please go to: http://philippineresponse.iom.int/sites/default/files/pdf/starting_the_conversation.pdf