Ebola – a crisis of language
“What they desperately needed was access to local information in a language they understood – could they go home? Where were the local services and who were all these foreigners who said they were coming to help?” (Mark Frohardt, Internews’ Vice President for Africa at the time.)
The Translators without Borders (TWB) Ebola Learning Review explores the issue of communicating with communities in the right language. TWB took its Words of Relief crisis program to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in November 2014 (funded by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund and Indigo Trust), to work directly with aid organizations and responders to provide information in the right language. The Words of Relief West Africa response consisted of three main components:
- Recruitment and training of translators
- Translation of more than 106 items between November 2014 and February 2015 into 30 languages.
- Dissemination of the information widely to aid agencies on the ground.
Read the review to learn more about the work we did in West Africa!
Making an Impact: Language Matters
Following our work in West Africa, we conducted a survey to determine the true impact of information in the right language. Working with one of the simple posters used during the crisis, we asked questions about prevention and symptoms to urban and rural Kenyans. When presented with the poster in English, the respondents got only 16 percent of the questions correct. Those given the exact same information in Swahili got 92 percent of the questions correct! Click on the infograph here to learn more about the critical link between language and saving lives.