“It would be better if the announcement was done through the radio or television because then everyone would be informed about the aid and there would be none who would miss the information provided”

Participant at a focus group discussion.

Communities in Nepal are still struggling to cope with the effects of powerful seismic quakes that hit the country in April and May 2015, causing catastrophic damage to the capital, Kathmandu, and the surrounding valleys. The onset of winter brought a new facet to the humanitarian challenge as a sizeable population were living in transitional shelters and needed support to survive the harsh winter months (October to March).

The Nepal Red Cross Society, with support from Movement partners, launched a cash distribution initiative to address the additional challenges brought with the winter season. The distribution aimed to meet the needs of 53,073 families in 16 targeted districts. Timely communication to communities was highly recommended as part of this initiative due to learning from previous evaluations of relief and cash distributions. These findings had indicated that only 25 per cent of respondents had received information about the distributions before they actually happened.

Informing communities

The Nepal Red Cross and IFRC’s CEA team shared vital information with communities about the distribution sites and timings and eligibility criteria through the radio, schools, community meetings and visiting households.

A hotline number was manned 24/7 by a Red Cross volunteer before and after the distribution from the National Society headquarters in Kathmandu. During the distribution, the CEA team established help desks at distribution sites to listen to and record feedback, as well as providing answers to enquiries. In some areas, the volunteers also used mini dramas on TV to share messages.

Findings from the post-distribution evaluation show significant improvement in community engagement. Reports indicate 99 per cent of the respondents received information about the cash distribution in advance while 92 per cent of respondents felt they had received enough information.

In addition, reports show that many relied on their local social networks for receiving information about the distribution: 48 per cent of the people said they heard of the cash distribution through word of mouth from others in the community, 34 per cent from community leaders, 28 per cent through meetings called by the Red Cross, 24 per cent from their neighbours and 22 per cent through a visit from their neighbour. Word of mouth is a common way for notifying communities and the CEA team used it as a tool to ensure maximum reach for information about the cash distributions.

Findings from focus group discussions indicate that people would like to receive information through the radio, TV and newspapers. This learning is being considered for future interventions, which will seek to use broader media channels.