Translators without Borders Words of Relief

Organisation: Translators without Borders

Partners: World Health Organization; Internews; International Rescue Committee; Mercy Corps

Type of grant: Scaling

Status: Ongoing


Linguistic barriers are a longstanding problem in humanitarian operations. A 2011 report from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Disaster Relief 2.0, cited lack of translation support as a “perennial hidden issue…delaying critical communications and disenfranchising affected populations.”

In addition to ensuring that vital information is both accessible and comprehensible, linguistically appropriate communications can reassure affected communities, increase trust in aid workers, and effectively promote behavior change. However, the majority of international aid nonprofits are equipped only in major world languages that often do not match those of the affected population. Similarly, official government languages may be spoken or understood by only a minority of a country’s citizens.


The only service of its kind, Words of Relief (WoR) bridges existing language gaps to 1) facilitate two-way communication between humanitarian aid providers and crisis-affected populations, 2) improve access to life-saving information, and 3) increase the effectiveness of humanitarian response. Using a combination of human and technological resources, WoR makes vital linguistic support available immediately after sudden onset crises and throughout protracted responses.

WoR was first deployed in 2014 in Kenya and later during the Ebola crisis where WoR translators produced more than 100 posters, social mobilization messages, Ebola videos, and maps translated into 30 languages.

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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