The Media, Disasters, and Aid Essay

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There is little doubt that the media has a profound impact on our awareness of humanitarian emergencies and disaster relief around the world. The reality of these disasters, and our responses to them, are heavily influenced by the framework that the media uses – through exposure on television, radio and in print – to capture our attention.

The media has a number of important responsibilities during a natural disaster. I have broken down their responsibilities into four stages: early warning, immediate response, post-disaster review, and implementation. While these phases do not necessarily occur one after the other without overlap, they form a good basis from which to explain the different roles of the media throughout the disaster relief effort.

First and foremost, in what I like to call the “early warning” phase, the media serves as a link between disaster response units and authorities, with victims of an impending disaster. Their role here is to alert victims of an impending disaster and distribute disaster response advice.

After the disaster hits, the next phase is “immediate response”. The media’s primary focus here is to help victims of the disaster. The immediate response phase has two stages: crisis point, where the victims need immediate access to basic essentials; and the rebuilding phase, where victims have their basic needs met but there is ongoing need for donations – more generally in terms of goods and services – to assist victims rebuild their lives. By reporting on stories with dramatic and emotive coverage, the media links local and international NGOs to the public and compels them to donate.

In the “post disaster review” phase, the media focus moves away from aid, and takes a more eva...

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...plementation of new procedures and policies surrounding disaster awareness and response plans. The media works with NGOs to generate donations and help the victims. It promoted debates around what went wrong, and how to improve next time. Moreover, it puts pressure on the authorities to implement these changes to ensure a decrease in risk for any future disasters. It is true to say that without the media, the success of disaster management would not be possible. When the media, government authorities, technology suppliers, UN agencies, international and national NGOs and local communities work closely together, to inform and educate the public with accurate information, then early warning systems, disaster prevention methods and relief programs will be much more cohesive. Therefore, the role of the media in humanitarian emergencies and disaster relief is paramount.

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