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Our purpose is clear: to empower the humanitarian community to improve humanitarian response. We make this happen by supporting and championing the outcomes of robust research and proven innovations.
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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.
  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.


Words of Relief package was created for potential partners and funders. Fully defining the Words of Relief tools for organizations who are looking for better language solutions during crisis, and we will package it professionally.

In 2016 TWB were awarded our ‘Journey to Scale’ grant in 2016. Their  pathway to scale involves developing the platform to meet emergent needs (such as on-the-ground interpretation and voice capabilities), developing new and more effective outlets for disseminating vital information directly to affected populations, promoting increased use of the platform across a broader spectrum of humanitarian NGOs, and implementing a new business model to ensure the long-term sustainability of its services.

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Project Resources

Case Study Information Management, Communication & Technology

Missing the mark? People in eastern DRC need information on Ebola in a language they understand

Case Study Information Management, Communication & Technology, Innovation Management, More than Just Luck

Words of Relief: Translators Without Borders’ local language translation for emergencies

Report Information Management, Communication & Technology

Words of Relief: Ebola Crisis Learning Review

Report Information Management, Communication & Technology

Final Report: Words of Relief

Latest Updates

Tongue-tied no more – how common language services help improve the impact and reach of humanitarian action: Scale Vlog #5

03 Mar 2019

In the next stage of their journey Translators without Borders explore how common language services help improve the impact and reach of humanitarian action.


How to communicate life-saving information: Scale Vlog #4

01 Nov 2018

The first step was to establish which languages crisis-affected people speak and understand


The Story of our Work in Kenya

11 Jun 2018

Watch the team's video about their work in Kenya.


Scale Vlog #3

10 May 2018

The team are now focusing on developing and rapidly scaling up their support to overcome language barriers in crises in places like Bangladesh.


Scale Vlog #2

24 Oct 2017

TWB have been gathering evidence for effective communication and developing training resources to better support language service providers in crises.


Yesterday and tomorrow: Making the promise of technology a reality

07 Aug 2017

Cholera in Yemen, famine in South Sudan and slavery in Bangkok - the commonality across these stories is lack of free access to trusted information.


TWB’s first vlog on the #JourneytoScale

17 Jul 2017

The team share their first blog on their scale journey.


When Translation Saves Lives!

29 Jun 2017

As Translators Without Borders come to the end of their pilot project... must admit it’s been an exciting journey though not without challenges.


Language, power and aid effectiveness

20 Apr 2017

For one refugee in Greece, the words to describe her illness were lacking because there were no interpreters at the hospital she was taken to.


Diffusion funding: The Innovation of a Sustainable Funding Model

30 Sept 2016

The Diffusion grant allows TWB to explore different financing paths, especially the development of packages for interested agencies.


Final Q&A before scale

23 Nov 2015

Rebecca Petras, deputy director for Translators without Borders, talks about the successes, challenges and next steps for their project so far.


When Linguistics Saves Lives

08 Jun 2015

Mike Levin, a journalist for the Global South Development Magazine writes about how TWB’s Words of Relief helped with the Ebola virus in West Africa.


Communicating with Communities

8 Jun 2015

Communicating with Communities is a critical component in delivering aid during a crisis or disaster. It’s such a great need that if wrongly delivered, it can complicate other responses to the crisis or disaster.


Words of Relief - Reviewing The Lessons Learned

20 Mar 2015

Words of Relief is the first crisis relief translation network in the world, collaborating with NGOs/INGOs and the government to improve communication with communities.


Words of relief in the fight against Ebola

12 Nov 2014

While public health information is important and critical, it would be even more effective if the public could access basic Ebola information in the language they understand best.


Rapid Response Community Translators

20 Oct 2014

One piece of Words of Relief is the Spider Network of rapid response community translators, who can translate from English/Swahili into Kenyan regional languages in key geographic areas prone to disaster.


Creating awareness for Words of Relief

30 Jun 2014

The team have been creating greater awareness that language matters during a disaster.


Developing the Words of Relief Digital Exchange

9 May 2014

It has been a great month for the Words of Relief team following our launch in Nairobi in March. April was focused on further development of the digital application of Words of Relief: the Words of Relief Digital Exchange (WoRDE)


Responding to Haiyan & Project Start

18 Nov 2013

We are also documenting what we have learnt from this latest  crisis to improve our own response to the next that will undoubtedly come, and to provide important input to our Words of Relief pilot project, due to  kick off in Kenya next month.


See the whole Journey to Scale

All our Journey to Scale projects have been keeping video diaries of their progress. Watch them to see how the different projects have grown.

See the journey

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