Words of Relief – Reviewing The Lessons Learned

Translators Without Border’s Words of Relief Crisis Response Network is a global translation and localization initiative. Leveraging both human and technological resources, the project builds capacity to facilitate and improve communication among victims, field workers, and relief agencies during and after crises.

As the end of the Words of Relief pilot draws near we are starting to review the lessons learned since the project began in January, 2014.

It has been quite an adventurous journey as we created awareness about Words of Relief – the first crisis relief translation network in the world – collaborating with NGOs/INGOs and the government to improve communication with communities.

Some NGOs were excited about this project and welcomed the inclusion of translation in their humanitarian efforts. These NGOs realized that language plays a great role in aid delivery during a crisis or disaster.

Other NGOs, however, have not yet understood the importance of providing information in the language of the affected. This has been a great challenge for us, but we have learnt that with more language awareness campaigns and training we will be able educate more first responders and aid organizations to include language in their humanitarian response during a crisis. We are producing an advocacy video to address this challenge.

In February, Words of Relief came in handy during the cholera outbreak and response here in Kenya. We provided the Message Library in Somali to the WASH Cluster who used the key message on cholera for their response. (The ML is an online database of messages – including First Aid tips and public service announcements. These messages were developed in collaboration with different UN clusters working in humanitarian response.)
We are now preparing to evaluate of the Words of Relief pilot by developing an impact study to assess how translated information can help communities, and establish whether language really matters during a disaster. The objective is to:
1. Measure the comprehension of English information leaflets vs. translated Swahili leaflets among urban and rural recipients in Kenya.
2. Gauge beneficiaries’ preferences for the mode of delivery of such content and the language of delivery.

We will interview rural and urban populations in Kenya during the month of March.
We will also conduct refresher training for the Spider Network team. It will be a great opportunity to reconnect with our volunteers and update their translation skills for a crisis/disaster. They will also be able to try out our new Online Orientation for Rapid Response. This online training was designed to provide contextual information and the key aspects of rapid response translation. It can be used by professional translators, as well as bilinguals before an event or crisis.

As we look forward we also look back at the response to Ebola in West Africa; our response was funded by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund. It’s through this funding that we were able to translate over 75 different Ebola materials from organizations such as International SOS and the Centers for Disease Control. The various materials were translated into 21 different languages. We also had the opportunity to translate videos, animation cartoons and maps for the populations that may not understand written materials.

Tune in for next month as we try out the Words of Relief Digital Exchange (WoRDE) during the elections in Nigeria!

Elrha is hosted by Save the Children, a registered charity in England and Wales (213890) and Scotland (SC039570).

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