Technology to the Rescue: Innovative Tools for Responding to Disaster

20 March 2012
Author: UNFPA
Youth volunteers were mobilized quickly using social media following flooding in the Philippines
The world is connected as never before. Radio reaches even the most remote and vulnerable, and the number of mobile phones has grown exponentially over the past decade. Still, as recent emergencies in Pakistan and Japan have shown us, communications networks can quickly fray in a natural disaster. The usefulness, of these tools depends on the context and the way populations already use them.

To better understand how communication tools and channels can help populations affected by disasters, the CDAC Network, in partnership with the UNFPA, BBC Media Action, and, and with sponsorship from the GSM Association Development Fund, is convening a Media and Technology Fair on 22 and 23 March in London.

This Media and Technology Fair will showcase emerging field practice and approaches, introduce a variety of media and technology tools, and examine how communicating with disaster-affected populations can help to improve outcomes.  

Thursday’s panels will bring together senior decision makers, potential donors and people of influence alongside technologists and media experts. Friday’s activities will explore the practical implications of implementing channels for communicating with disaster-affected populations. The event aims to share ideas and foster new partnerships in a spirit of collaborative problem-solving.

To follow live the Media and Technology Fair please use the following link:

Follow @CDACNetwork @UNFPA and #commisaid on Twitter for live coverage of the event

Mobilizing Youth Volunteers in the Philippines through Social Media

When tropical storm Washi struck the Philippines, thousands of homes were destroyed and over 300,000 people were displaced. UNFPA quickly mobilized youth volunteers in various evacuation centres to help identify pregnant women in need of assistance and to organize information sessions with young people.

Mona Basir, a member of UNFPA’s Youth Peer Education Network (Y-PEER) in Iligan City, had just returned from training abroad when she received a call to mobilize youth volunteers. “I had to immediately appeal to friends to help me. It was very challenging because some of the volunteers were themselves affected by the disaster,” she explained.

But thanks to Facebook and SMS (texting), Mona was flooded with messages from both friends and complete strangers expressing their interest in helping out. The youth volunteers were able to help organize and conduct the distribution of hygiene kits to pregnant and lactating women in evacuation centres. These kits included basic items such as soap, underwear and sanitary napkins. Women in the last trimester of their pregnancy were also given clean delivery kits.

Volunteers engaged other young people in the centres through focus group discussions to talk about their
experiences in these temporary shelters. They were able to determine problems which needed to be addressed, such as violence against women and children. For some of the volunteers, engaging with other affected youth was a way to cope with the tragic experience. “Helping those who have suffered the most is a way to deal with the stress they are going through,” Mona explained.


Population : 109.6 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 60%
Girls 71%

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