Tuesday, December 20, 2005

October 8: follow up and the media

Now its almost been three months since the deadly Oct 8th earthquake. Aid effort has been continuing but the media attention has receded- both by the national and international media. Some of that is indeed natural - but we do need continued media attention if we are to make sure that the needs of the survivors are catered to.

BBC ran a story on the earthquake after quite a long time and it recounts the problems that relief workers and the survivors are facing in the harsh winter.

We forget sometimes just how much the people here are affected by the tremors and how much of a preoccupation they still remain.We are hearing a lot of coughing at night, particularly among the children. And it is not a nice cough. Night temperatures are now below -10C and more and more people are coming to us with health problems....

The helicopters are vital. We haven't managed to get the Chinook helicopters that can carry much more than the Mi8s. But we have to count ourselves lucky. Two days ago, we were told we had lost the military helicopters that had been bringing us the relief assistance. And that it would probably be another three or four days before other helicopters would be found to do the job. But yesterday, a UN Mi8 allocated to an NGO that no longer wanted it managed to do a few sorties to Kot. In the last week, they have been bringing blankets and metal sheets. We need another 12,000 metal sheets to fully meet the needs of the people in the 13 villages my husband Daniel and I are working in.

This couple has been doing good work guiding and motivating the people to continue building. I really applaud their spirit.

The point to note here is that a large number of people have been planning to stay put. Recently, volunteers from my university surveyed some of the affected areas and their findings confirmed this : people would rather remain put and receive aid there. So then that brings me to the role that media can play in this whole effort. The media has to keep the limelight on the relief and reconstruction operations for two very obvious reasons:
  • The general public, government and relief agencies should not forget about them. The media has to keep reminding them time and again. They need to remind people time and again that there are still human beings up in those areas who need assitance - that our collective responsibility is not yet over. A lot has to be done yet.
  • The accountability factor: the government will take some concrete measures if some camera hawks keep snooping in. It will have to make sure that the ones in need are actually provided for. This is the duty of the media and it must be discharged with utmost responsibility.
The problem being - that there is already a media fatigue. I have read fewer and fewer stories and analysis articles in the papers. I have noticed reduced electronic coverage too. This wont do. This lack of interest can be a deadly blow to the survivors. The need is to keep the interest alive and I feel everyone of us can contribute to that in our own little way. But contribute, we must.

BBC story here.