Internews Assesses Information Needs on the Tunisia/Libya Border

March 16, 2011

Tens of thousands of people who have fled the violence in Libya to Tunisia are relying on informal word-of-mouth communication channels to gather information, according to an Internews assessment of information needs in the Choucha camp, the main transit site on the Tunisian border with Libya. Radio and television are not widely accessible, and though many stranded migrant workers have cell phones and are able to charge them at the camp, they lack direct information about their situation on the ground.

Internews, working with humanitarian agencies such as UNHCR, IOM and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) on the ground, has made a series of recommendations on how to facilitate camp communications to spread accurate information within the camps.

Internews recommendations include:

  • twice-daily public address announcements in the camps,
  • information cards for new arrivals,
  • an information bulletin board, and
  • information tents staffed with volunteers to provide information and collect common questions to be answered in daily announcements.

Internews also helped facilitate the first Camp Communication meeting at Choucha Camp to support relief agencies in coordinating communication efforts.

Because of the lack of access to radio, television, Internet, and mobile networks, the recommended in-person communications were determined to be the best way to systematically distribute reliable information and provide centralized points for camp residents to gather information and communicate needs back to the humanitarian community.

“People are in the dark; it’s the worst thing. If they had five, ten minutes of somebody’s time to listen to their questions – it makes a person feel better, that somebody is listening to them,” said Suzanna Tkalec Senior Technical Advisor for Protection with Caritas in Tunisia, one of the relief organizations Internews worked with at the Choucha camp.

Internews staff conducted interviews with migrant workers in the camps, humanitarian organizations, the Tunisian army, and local media and governments officials to develop the assessment and recommendations. Residents’ main information needs include how to access basic services at the camp, how to get information on transit to their home countries, as most are migrant workers, and news on the situation in Libya, including the safety of family and friends in the country.

UNOCHA included a special section on “Beneficiary Communications” in their initial assessment per Internews’ request. The questions detail residents’ access to radio, TV, and mobile phones, as well as literacy and languages spoken. UNOCHA assessments provide the baseline of information for all humanitarian organizations implementing relief services.

Internews also gathered and shared contact information for local vendors for communication tools such as speakers, large screens, and printers, in hopes that these camp communication activities can be a collaboration between humanitarian agencies and local groups.

About Internews

Internews is an international media development organization that empowers local media worldwide to serve the information needs of their communities.

Internews is a founding member of Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC), an inter-agency global working group that brings together leading relief and development organizations including UNOCHA, British and Irish Red Cross and Save the Children, and media development agencies, including the BBC World Service Trust and the Thomson Reuters Foundation, in a collaboration that recognizes information sharing as a key humanitarian deliverable.

Collaboration between relief agencies and media partners is critical to the success of any humanitarian response. Internews has built partnerships and worked closely with organizations and government agencies at all stages of emergency response, including during relief efforts in Chad, Gaza, Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Sudan.

Read the assessment

Internews’ assessment in Tunisia was funded by the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.