EIS Action-Units will be staffed by specialist humanitarian-trained Reuters journalists. Upon alert of a major natural disaster, the EIS Action-Units will travel to the affected area and use the most appropriate means of communication - particularly SMS text messages - to reach local populations, aid agencies and local-language media. Communities affected by disasters often find themselves cut off from information and aid. A key aim of the EIS is to ensure those affected are not seen merely as victims but as "first responders" who can help shape and manage the disaster recovery process through their own local knowledge and expertise.
Speaking at the launch, Monique Villa, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said: "In times of major natural catastrophes, information itself is aid, as crucial as shelter or blankets. Working with key partners such as the Red Cross, the EIS will have teams in the field within hours of a natural disaster striking. The EIS Action-Units will provide reliable, actionable information to help empower survivors to be architects of their own recovery."
Thomson Reuters Foundation has developed groundbreaking technology to allow the EIS team and other groups to assimilate and process multiple information streams in an emergency. The tools let the EIS Action-Units generate information services for dissemination in local languages via SMS, email and web page. When all communications are down, the EIS will turn to low-tech means such as leaflets, community noticeboards and even megaphones.
The launch of the EIS comes on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami. To mark the occasion, the Red Cross and Thomson Reuters Foundation have produced "Surviving the Tsunami - Stories of Hope", a multimedia documentary capturing the stories of survivors, aid workers and a Reuters photographer, each giving their own highly personal account of the Indian Ocean Tsunami. The documentary explores how survivors have overcome tragedy to rebuild their lives. It features pictures and video taken by journalists from Reuters bureaus around the Indian Ocean, capturing the terrifying drama and traumatic aftermath of the tsunami's impact.
Surviving the Tsunami - Stories of Hope" is the third in a series of award-winning multimedia documentaries created by Reuters which have also covered the Iraq war and the financial crisis.
Commenting on the documentary, Paul Conneally, head of communications for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said, "Five years ago the world watched the Indian Ocean Tsunami as it caused catastrophic and unprecedented damage across countries and communities, much of which is still being addressed today. It was a disaster that also witnessed global media attention, a worldwide humanitarian response and incredible levels of spontaneous generosity from ordinary people around the world. The Red Cross and Thomson Reuters wanted to produce a true testimony to mark this landmark event, and to provide a platform for ordinary people affected by the tsunami to tell their extraordinary stories."
Monique Villa added, "This is a hugely inspirational and moving multimedia documentary that reveals the human capacity to overcome tragedy. It also draws on the unique experiences of Reuters journalists in one of the most harrowing natural disasters of our time."