New UN-backed website provides vital humanitarian information in Spanish

26 October 2007

A new website will provide Spanish-speakers with easy access to information on natural disasters and complex emergencies in the Latin American and Caribbean region previously available only in English, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

The website is part of the Regional Humanitarian Information Network Project (Redhum), launched at the Global Symposium on Humanitarian Information, which concluded its weeklong session in Geneva today.

Lead by the OCHA Regional Office in Panama, Redhum seeks to provide easy and organized access to quality and updated humanitarian information from the region, through a website in Spanish – www.redhum.org – with up-to-date situation reports, maps, and contact information that will allow for better preparation and response in the event of a disaster.

Organizers said the project grew out of the realization that whenever there was a humanitarian disaster in Latin America all the information was often available only in English, and that some 60 to 80 per cent of the information necessary to manage those emergencies was already available.

Gerard Gomez, Head of the OCHA Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, said the programme was a two-pronged one – it was both a website and a network of partners, including OCHA, the civil defence services of Central American countries, the Coordination Centre for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America, the Regional Interagency Group for Disasters, the Red Cross, and others.

During the Global Symposium, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and keynote speaker John Holmes highlighted the need to have quick access to accurate and timely information in the midst of humanitarian emergencies.

“We have to be able to assess quickly and credibly the seriousness of a hurricane in Central America versus a flood in Africa and a drought in Africa. We have to be able to distinguish the gravity for the victims of the media-worthy conflict in an easily accessible and ‘sexy’ part of the world from the long running and media-neglected, but possibly much more devastating drama in some other remote part of the globe,” he said.

“We have to share information and analysis because they are essentially common to us all, what binds us together despite our differences,” Mr. Holmes added.

The Symposium – which brought together 250 representatives from the UN, government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scientists, academics, the media and the private sector – also addressed new and innovative technology being used in humanitarian operations such as satellite imagery, blogging and the use of mobile phones in the field.

 

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