Texting in Haiti

Red Cross experts in Haiti have been working around the clock to prepare for the tropical storm, Tomas, expected to hit the vulnerable country this week.

In addition to getting emergency supplies ready so that they can be quickly distributed when needed, the Red Cross has been using text messaging to bolster its communication with Haitians to prepare them for the storm.

On Monday, the Canadian Red Cross issued about 500,000 text messages and by the end of Thursday, that number increased to 1.5 million. The messages provide simple and accessible information on the steps Haitians can take to minimize their risk.

Here are examples of messages (translated into English for this blog) sent through SMS:

  • Haiti is under threat of Hurricane Tomas. Call *733 free for more information on how you and your family can prepare for emergencies.
  • Do not stay close to rivers or on bridges to look at flowing water. Do not ever cross the flowing water, neither by foot, by animal, or by car. If there is a strong storm, do not stay close to windows or below trees.

Effective and inexpensive, text messaging has become such an important tool being used in Haiti’s recovery.

When the quake struck, we heard stories of people trapped in rubble using SMS to alert rescuers of their location. When the Red Cross launched an appeal to raise funds for Haiti, a text-to-donate campaign raised more than $32.2 million in the U.S. Soon after the quake, the Red Cross used SMS to provide locals with important information about health, water and sanitation.

We also recently learned that the local Red Cross has started a new Twitter account, @kwawouj to send updates to help locals cope with the recent cholera outbreak. With the support of a local wireless provider, Voila, Haitians can get updates from @kwawouj sent directly to their cell phones.

Click here for more info about @kwawouj.


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