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Disaster Response in the PhilippinesAnnually, about 10 tropical storms develop in the Philippines, with averages of eight to nine reaching land. These numbers do not include other disasters the country faces such as typhoons, earthquakes, monsoons and so on. Despite being one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, efficient communication with technology in the Philippines allows social media, Google Person Finder and satellites, to provide the best relief efforts. Keep reading to learn more about the top three ways technology helps disaster response in the Philippines.

3 Ways Technology Helps Disaster Response in the Philippines 

  1. Social Media: Social media is indeed a connecting source and finds its strength in aiding the response to disasters with quickly spreading information that is, in turn, easily accessed. Popular media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter updated by disaster area residents offer real-time updates about the current on-ground situation.

    Thanks to organizations such as the Standby Task Force, established in 2012 by Andrej Verity, these social media updates become pillars for relief and rescue. For example, in its use for supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013. These updates transform traditional on-ground humanitarian efforts into digital humanitarian efforts with online volunteers.

    Through a streamlined process, volunteers tagged Haiyan-related social media posts. Then, sifting through them for relevancy, otherwise known as digital micro-tasking. Finally, submitting them to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to compile a crisis map. With the widespread information thanks to social media, digital humanitarians take a hands-on approach to affecting the on the ground situation. Given that the combined concentration of thousands of volunteers provide time efficiency, a necessity when it comes to saving lives quicker.

  2. Communication Technology: Other communication technology such as Google Person Finder assists in finding missing persons in the Philippines. For instance, in 2012, monsoon floods from Typhoon Saola caused increased landslides and flash floods; flooding at least 50 percent of the country and creating severe rescue conditions with strong currents. There were at least 900,000 affected families and 11 individuals missing.

    For those looking for the missing or stranded, Google’s free Person Finder tool comes in extremely handy as all one needs to do is input the individual’s name. At the same time, Google cross-references entries from other websites with information about missing persons to ping and locate leads.

  3. Satellite Technology: After Haiyan, most of the traditional methods of mobile communication infrastructure diminished, thus requiring the need for something more reliable, such as satellites. Learning from the Haiyan damage, the nation’s most high-risk disaster areas now have mobile satellite equipment for easy deployment. This new tech brought forth by Inmarsat and the United Kingdom Space Agency, provides a reliable and sustainable communication method for the worst disaster days expected.

    Another example is the Tacloban Health Cluster which utilizes satellites to canvas and coordinates public health response in the worst disaster-stricken areas, allowing better tracking of diseases and medical conditions throughout disaster times in hospitals and clinics. This data collection does not only help respond in real-time. Additionally, it is beneficial for understanding health trends after a storm to allow for a more proactive approach following the next impending storm the islands are known to face.

Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr

ten facts about social activism
Social activism is a purposeful action with the mission of bringing about lasting social change. Anyone with a cause that they feel passionate about can become a social activist if they work to create effective and positive change. Social activism generally refers to working to right the wrongs of unjust practices affecting humans, such as the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar or the separation of families at the United States and Mexico border by immigration officers. However, activists can work to create change with any cause, including environmental activism and animal activism. These 10 facts about social activism will provide information on the evolution of activism, as well as careers relating to social activism.

10 Facts About Social Activism

  1. The social services industry works to address the direct needs of individuals, while social activism deals with uncovering the root cause of a negative issue impacting a group of people. A social activist may use various techniques to bring light to an issue, either through advocacy campaigns to raise public awareness on an issue, or by coordinating help to aid an affected population. Social activism deals more heavily with bringing light and change to societal issues.
  2. Social activism has changed drastically with the rise of social media. For example, the civil rights movement had mostly peaceful demonstrations and protests and is still one of the most successful social activism campaigns. Nowadays, social media has become a key player in social activism. Hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo have taken over the role of advocacy and are very successful in bringing light to social justice issues by providing accessible information across the world.
  3. A survey that the Pew Research Center carried out found that 69 percent of Americans believe that online platforms are essential for successful social activism campaigns. Americans believe that online platforms accomplish various political goals such as getting the attention of legislators and creating sustained movements for social change. There is a debate over slacktivism versus social media activism. Slacktivism is the belief that social media leads to passive activism.
  4. The same survey found that certain demographics of social media users – most notably African and Latino Americans – see these platforms as an essential tool for their own political expression and activism. Around half of all African American social media users state that these platforms are at least somewhat important for them to express their political views. Many minorities feel that social media allows them to be more active in speaking up for their own rights. Those views fall to about one-third of all white social media users.
  5. Organizations, corporations and government agencies are frequent targets for social activists aiming to influence society by altering established practices and policies. Activists may use techniques such as naming and shaming to bring about social change. Naming and shaming is when a group or organization calls out another group for unethical practices. An example of this is when the United States placed sanctions on South Africa for apartheid. The sanctions shamed South Africa and brought this issue to the attention of the international community.
  6. One can place activists into two categories depending on their relationship to an organization. Insider activists are employees of a targeted organization. They have certain benefits and challenges compared to outsider activists who are members of independent social activism movements. Insider activists are also called whistleblowers and they expose unethical practices happening within the organization they are a part of.
  7. Activists may use boycotts and protests to target businesses and get them to change their practices or behaviors. Boycotts are successful in targeting businesses as they cut them off from economical transactions and limit their profits. Businesses will often adhere to the demands of customers if the boycott is large enough to severely impact them. Therefore, boycotts are an effective way of getting businesses to change their business models to something more ethical that pleases their consumer base.
  8. Millennials are often socially active consumers as they consider the ethics of their products before purchasing. The shoe brand Toms promises to donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. Paper straws have also become a popular environmental alternative to the traditional plastic straw. The clothing brand Reformation claims to be the most sustainable option in clothing second to being nude. Millennial consumption habits have created a whole market for sustainable and ethical products.
  9. There are many careers that incorporate some elements of social activism, with careers in law and public policy creating change through human rights law, lobbying and public interest law. Careers in government and international relations can bring one into agencies such as the State Department or the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA), as well as international organizations like the United Nations. Community organizers empower and develop local community leadership to enable them to meet community needs, ranging from clean water to better education. Careers in nonprofit organizations, like Save the Children or CARE, both of which provide humanitarian assistance to developing countries, are also great paths to go down.
  10. There are certain skills that make individuals qualified for a career in social activism. Individuals must be able to work with a diverse array of people, have excellent communication skills and be able to speak persuasively. Strong writing and critical analysis skills are also helpful, in order to strategize and envision an improved society.

These 10 facts about social activism show the evolution of activism with the rise of modern technology and social media. The form and pace of social activism will continue evolving to keep up with changing technologies. Technology and social media have sped up the exchange of information and knowledge, which largely contributes to the basis of many worldwide social activism campaigns.

Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

help Guatemala
Currently, in Guatemala, 200 people are missing, 110 people are deceased and more than 1.7 million people have been impacted by the eruption of the Fuego volcano that began on June 3. It was the nation’s most severe volcanic eruption in 45 years and the size of this disaster has compelled many around the world to act.

Images of the volcano’s victims and its devastating impact are easily accessible on social media, as are advocacy and volunteer opportunities. Keep reading for a few examples of how to help Guatemala’s Fuego victims and bring awareness to the crisis.

Advocacy on Social Media

Social media has made advocacy from home possible and is one of the easiest ways to get involved in a cause. Several hashtags have popped up on social media platforms since the eruption began as a way to raise awareness along with fundraising and donation opportunities. With a simple search on Instagram or Twitter for any of the hashtags mentioned below, users can see pictures and updates on life in Guatemala after the volcano.

Examples of popular hashtags include:

  • #PrayForGuatemala
  • #GuatemalaEstoyContigo
  • #TodosPorGuate
  • #VolcanDeFuego
  • #FuerzaGuatemala

Finding Volunteers on Facebook

Another social media site that has offered ways to help Guatemala is Facebook. Beyond matching donations, the Crisis Response page on Facebook for the volcanic eruption has become a way for locals to find and give help. Facebook users can post to the page and list what they are offering or need, their location and how to get in contact with them.

Scrolling through the page shows people offering food, shelter or supplies, requesting help and asking for volunteers in specific locations. What is even more impressive is the number of posts that have already been completed or closed. This is yet another example of a relatively easy and effective way to help victims of Fuego’s eruption.

Red Cross Volunteers Working Hard

The Red Cross, led by the CruzRojaGT or Guatemalan arm of the organization, has been working tirelessly to provide rescue operations and support to Guatemalans. This organization has no intention of leaving soon and is putting long-term plans into place in order to keep helping survivors of this crisis.

The organization administered an emergency appeal to maintain programs in Guatemala to support 6,000 vulnerable people for at least a year. More than two weeks after the initial eruption, there are still 1,600 volunteers helping families evacuated during the eruption.

The American Red Cross is offering help as well, with programs set up to help people find loved ones they may have lost contact with in Guatemala. Beyond donating to the cause, sharing this information and keeping up to date on the current conditions are great ways to get involved with the Red Cross efforts.

Donations Flow In to Help Guatemala

In horrible times of crisis, sometimes the only positives are outpourings of support from the global community. There are many organizations and nonprofits accepting donations to provide help to burn victims, shelters, supplies and future rebuilding. GoFundMe set up a page with verified campaigns aiming to raise money to help Guatemala. Many of these funds were started by Guatemalans or people with ties to the country and some have already raised over $100,000.

This is partially made possible by the thousands of social media users who have used hashtags and posts to bring awareness to these causes and the ongoing impacts of the eruption. After the dust settles in Guatemala, it is important to keep sharing and being advocates for the millions of people impacted by Fuego’s eruption and to bring awareness to this crisis.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

How to Fight for Social JusticeAn important thing to keep in mind when learning how to fight for social justice is what social justice really is. Fighting for social justice is a way of solving social inequalities. Social inequalities can come in different forms, but they revolve around two major categories: inter-social treatment and unequal government regulation.

Inter-social treatment describes the treatment of groups of people on a local and regional scale and deals with issues such as racism, sexism, ageism and heterosexism. These social inequalities are commonly based on personal beliefs.

Unequal government regulation describes the laws and regulations in place which discriminate against minorities. These often relate to poverty, the death penalty, civil rights and access to healthcare and education.

Health, education, social mobility, crime, and wellbeing are directly correlated to social inequalities due to inter-social treatment and unequal government regulation. It is important to remember that these two categories of inequality are often linked to each other. These social inequalities can be experienced directly and indirectly, and it is important to keep that in mind when learning how to fight for social justice.

Direct social inequality is the deliberate mistreatment of minorities or groups of people. This can come in the form of actions that take away resources and opportunities from select groups of people based on prejudices and personal beliefs. This type of inequality can include, but is not limited to, physical and/or verbal assault on a person or group of people and laws created based on established prejudices.

Indirect social inequality is enforcing unfair treatment of people unintentionally. Many people are guilty of this form of oppression because they are simply unaware of it. Consumerism is a large factor in this form of social inequality, because often the products being purchased are made by sweatshop workers, produce waste and chemicals which pollute the areas where impoverished people live and even support political candidates who promote social inequalities.

Taking action on a social issue is a major step in learning how to fight for social justice. Activism, by definition, is using consistent campaigning to bring social and/or political change. With the technology available today, even the busiest of people can become activists for social issues through a variety of means:

  • Using social media
    One of the easiest ways to fight for social justice is to use a social media platform. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all great starting points to grow an active voice for social justice. In today’s age of technology, something as small as a hashtag can be the start of a worldwide social justice movement, such as the “Black Lives Matter”, “Love Wins” and the “Me Too” movements.
  • Donating
    Organizations are always in need of donations to their cause because to fight for social justice, organizations need funding. For some, it is not always practical to donate money, so an alternative is to consider donating your time. Holding fundraisers, hosting rallies and participating in sponsored walks are all great ways to fight for social justice through activism.
  • Contacting Congress
    A critical part of fighting for social justice is starting from the ground up in local government. Big movements take small steps towards greatness, and one way to help move forward for social justice is making a change in government. Contacting Congress about issues and concerns is a pivotal part of creating change. Voting in leadership who support important causes is another important step in fighting for social justice.
  • Joining local groups
    Connecting with local activist groups can help you stay up to date on events, fundraisers, news and information on social issues.

Whether we are fighting against global poverty, racism, sexism, ageism or the many other social issues that face us, the answer to “how to fight for social justice” is understanding what social justice is, finding a voice and using it through activism.

– Courtney Hambrecht

Photo: Flickr

Desperate citizens of Libya, especially in the country’s capital Tripoli, are using Libyan social media in a unique way. The people of Libya send helpful information that might say something like, “red light,” to signal an area where militia is fighting or perhaps even taking people for ransom.

The country has been hit with turmoil and danger, as they are three years into their civil war, and is fraught with economic collapse and militia violence. The country is mostly ungoverned, and without safety or regulations being taken, human trafficking and poor treatment of migrants is becoming common.

The citizens on Libyan social media have created groups on Facebook to exchange helpful information on things like where to find petrol stations containing supplies, banks with currency and medicine. The posts also let people know occurrences of danger and violence, and areas of caution.

The militia recently shut off water valves that pump water to the city from the large underground reservoirs in the Sahara; as a result, the residents are desperately looking for water bottles, drawing water from ancient wells and drilling through pavement to get access to water. This can be contaminated water and could potentially cause an outbreak of waterborne diseases. Thankfully, though, social media has been a resource outlet for people to find places with safe drinking water.

With all of the complications and fears the country faces, Libyan social media has become a successful way to quickly spread crucial information about the current situation. Many migrants look to the Facebook groups to warn them of certain areas where it is more likely to become subject to sexual abuse or sold as slaves.

Help came to the country through the installation of the International Organization for Migration, an organization that plans to carry out numerous strategies for evacuating migrants. The effort of relocating people safely is dangerous and difficult due to the lack of government safety, but the use of Libyan social media has played a significant role in successfully aiding others in the meantime.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

Tech Solutions That Improve Humanitarian Service DeliveryWith natural disasters like the recent earthquakes in Mexico and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria wreaking untold havoc, the question of how to improve humanitarian service delivery is all the more pertinent. Technology is quickly changing the way we respond to crises and will continue to transform our responses in the future.

According to the GSM Association, increased mobile connectivity is a lifeline that has made service delivery more efficient. Network operators can get in touch with anyone connected to a mobile device to warn them of incoming disasters and provide them with strategies to prepare for the worst. The rise of social media has given political leaders and news organizations similar powers to connect with their citizens and audiences.

In addition, mobile devices make humanitarian cash transfers easier—it is far more convenient and quicker to send digital money than cash—and improve access to energy. Especially in the developing world, many people live off the traditional “grid” but are covered by pay-as-you-go energy providers, who partner with mobile services, to ensure easy and orderly digital payments.

According to the World Economic Forum, robots are making a difference in how humanitarian aid is deployed, and they will likely do so to an even greater extent in the future. Certain areas become too dangerous during disasters for human responders to be able to assess needs or deliver aid, and robots (including drones) have the potential to mitigate that. Indeed, drones are currently being used, albeit in a limited manner.

With the number of people affected by humanitarian crises nearly doubling over the course of the past decade, technological solutions like these will be vital to minimizing the effects of the growing displacement crisis and the security risks and poverty it causes.

Gisli Rafn Olafsson believes one of the most important effects of technology on humanitarian service delivery is its potential to encourage a “bottom-up” approach that will soon replace the current, unwieldy “top-down” paradigm. With technology, the beneficiaries of humanitarian response can organize their own responses to wars and natural disasters rather than wait for help to arrive. A grassroots network is invariably the strongest tool and the best solution to improve humanitarian service delivery.

Chuck Hasenauer
Photo: Flickr

Freedom of the Press in CambodiaOver the past few weeks, the freedom of the press in Cambodia has suffered significantly. The country normally displays an impressive ability to support unbiased news sources, but the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has recently directed a crackdown on opposing press organizations.

In anticipation of a threatening 2018 election, the government has shut down 19 radio stations and charged exorbitant taxes to other publications that do not support Hun Sen’s government. The U.S., European Union and the U.N. have all criticized the Cambodian government for its recent actions.

However, Hun Sen is empowered by President Trump’s attacks on free press and the current domestically-focused agenda, which has led to weak engagement with Southeast Asia. In recent years, social media has become a main source of news for Cambodians, and parties challenging the government have been able to use platforms such as Facebook to their advantage.

Social media use in Cambodia has surged dramatically since 2010, with the 2015 growth rate of Facebook users being 30 percent each year. Eight out of 10 of Cambodia’s most popular Facebook pages are political information sources, including news publications and political figures. Cambodians want personal connections with political figures, and thus value the opportunity to engage with candidates on Facebook. Another contributor to high political activity is the heated political climate which makes every issue into a political issue, according to deputy opposition leader Mu Sochua. Sochua believes that Facebook will be a crucial platform to communicate with Cambodians about her party’s values.

Hun Sen’s rival political candidate, Sam Rainsy, has accused Hun Sen of buying Facebook “likes.” The post landed him in prison for defamation, which is yet another example of the government suppressing the freedom of the press in Cambodia. Leaks revealing unflattering information about opposing parties is a common occurrence on political Facebook pages.

During the Arab Spring, social media proved to be a tool that allowed discontented citizens to organize and make their voices heard. In the week before Egyptian President Hosni Mubaraks resigned, tweets about politics increased from 2,300 to 230,000 per day. Videos featuring political protest or commentary went viral, building confidence in the peoples’ ability to organize to force the change they want to see.

Demands for political freedom on social media has inspired other nearby countries, sparking political discussion in the entire region. Government efforts to restrict discussion on social media has only fueled the change makers, since social media is much harder to control than traditional press organizations.

The desire for reform regarding freedom of the press must originate from the Cambodian people, and Facebook can be a tool used to amplify their voices. The Cambodians’ extensive involvement in politics on social media is a promising sign for their ability to come together to protect their political freedoms, even when the freedom of the press is being threatened.

Kristen Nixon

Photo: Flickr

How to Solve World Hunger

In 2010, former World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Josette Sheeran boldly stated, “We can end hunger. Many hungry nations have defeated hunger. It doesn’t require some new scientific breakthrough. It’s not rocket science.” Sheeran’s proposal on how to solve world hunger in 10 steps is still relevant today:

  1. Humanitarian action: Natural disaster impacts the world annually. According to World Vision, in 2015, the worst natural disasters recorded were (i) An earthquake — Nepal, (ii) A flood — Chennai, India, (iii) A heat wave — southern India, (iv) Typhoon and monsoon rains — Myanmar, Bangladesh and India (v) Floods — Malawi and Mozambique and (vi) A drought — Ethiopia. In 2016, the American Red Cross and other organizations are still providing direct relief for the survivors. Sheeran advocates for volunteerism in communities affected by natural disasters to help with relief and reduce world hunger.
  2. School meals: This is an affordable approach to promoting development and reducing malnutrition. Individuals can donate online to organizations that provide school meals or they can provide direct relief.
  3. Safety nets: A “safety net” is comparable to a backup plan for when natural disasters strike. For example, the Red Cross is considered a safety net based upon their annual direct relief efforts. Safety nets should be linked to schools and farmers in case of an emergency such as a famine or flood.
  4. Connect small farmers to markets: According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), small farmers produce 80 percent of the world’s food supply. However, the majority barely make enough income to survive. By connecting small farmers to markets, they can increase their income potential and learn best practices such as drip irrigation and soil tillage.
  5. Nourish children during their first 1,000 days: The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are the most important for development and growth. Nourishing children is an investment that can help to increase trade and expand job creation.
  6. Empower women: Women in South America and Asia are more likely to go hungry than men. When hunger affects women, hunger affects children. Women make up the majority of agricultural manual workers, therefore empowering women creates greater food security for the entire household.
  7. Technology revolution: Iraq refugees began to use text messages on mobile phones in 2010 as a means to get food by WFP food vouchers saving money and travel time. Now, refugees do not have to journey to a distribution center and return with over a month’s worth of food.
  8. Build resiliency: Hunger is highly correlated with disaster. According to the WFP, “It is essential to help build the resiliency of vulnerable communities so that when emergencies strike, they are strong enough to cope.” The organization provides disaster relief for over 80 million people in over 60 different countries.
  9. Make a difference as an individual: Social media is booming in today’s world. Anyone can help bring awareness to global hunger by accessing these tools. For example, people can tweet, Instagram or Facebook post about their favorite global poverty awareness organizations to get their friends to donate. Awareness is a powerful first step to solving world hunger.
  10. Show leadership: WFP honored President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as a “Global Champion for the Fight Against Hunger” award. “President Lula has shown leadership in the fight against hunger by pushing the needs of the poor and the undernourished to the very top of the international agenda,” stated Sheeran.The above steps provide an excellent guideline on how to solve world hunger. The WFP continues to encourage individuals and organizations globally to take a stand now in order to end the hunger crisis for future generations.

  • Rachel Hutchinson

 

Etisalat Nigeria Fight MalariaEtisalat Nigeria, a telecommunications company dedicated to providing stable and socially responsible service to Nigerians, has revealed plans for starting ‘Fight Malaria Clubs’ in secondary schools around the country. This announcement took place at the World Malaria Day event on April 25, 2016.

Etisalat’s dedication to fighting Malaria in Nigeria, however, is not new. The company has already established relationships with communities and donated insecticide-treated malaria nets to local governments and schools. The ‘Fight Malaria Clubs’ will continue Etisalat’s prior initiative that supported Student Leaders Against Malaria (SLAM) groups.

These new ‘Fight Malaria Clubs’ will be pioneered by two of Etisalat’s adopted schools through their Adopt-A-School program. The company ‘adopts’ schools through a partnership with the Lagos state government in Nigeria to “bring about sustainable change and development.”

The Director of Regulatory and Corporate Social Responsibility, Ikenna Ikeme, noted that once the pilot program at Akande Dahunsi Memorial Junior and Senior Secondary school is complete, Etisalat “plan[s] to roll out subsequently to our other adopted schools.”

Ikeme also stressed the importance of involving the youth in efforts to eliminate Malaria in Nigeria and the impact that educating school-age children can have on creating “change in behavior in households.” These clubs will allow Etisalat to train students in utilizing technology and other resources to counter the spread of Malaria and for both personal and community-wide success.

Through participation in these clubs and the resources afforded to them, students will learn how to “implement malaria prevention programs in their various homes, surroundings and community at large” and can actively mobilize others to join the movement.

A final fascinating part of Etisalat’s plan for the ‘Fight Malaria Clubs’ in secondary schools is the use of social media technology among participants to engage in and promote “malaria prevention messages.” By providing technological resources that allow for students to participate in a global conversation about eliminating Malaria, these clubs have the potential for not just a local impact, but a global one.

The initiative to involve youth in malaria prevention work reflects Etisalat’s larger mission to be a socially responsible company, as outlined on their home page. The company not only uses their technology and resources to lend a hand to local communities but also provides scholarships and career counseling to students. Etisalat also pursues initiatives to lower the maternal and infant mortality rate, the risk of Ebola, and the level of environmental degradation.

Now at the forefront of global news, Etisalat’s work of empowering individuals and communities through reliable access to crucial resources such as 3G data and wireless calling is gaining recognition as an admirable model for socially responsible business.

Kathleen Kelso