Social Media Tools Help Humanitarian Aid Organizations

In Chile on June 25, 2011 by georgetown2012

Medecins sans frontiers, the international, independent, medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters, would benefit greatly from social media tools such as: google person finder, twitter and Facebook.

In the wake of last years March 8.8 magnitued earthquake that hit near Concepcion, Chile’s second largest city, social media users employed their tool of choice to seek help and relief for loved ones and compatriots.

Google’s person finder app was developed to be used in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in that country. It could not be simpler” “I’m looking for someone” or “I have information about someone.” This is critical information in those desperate minute, hours, and days following a disaster. Medecins sans frontiers could use this application as they endeavor to treat patients, and locate survivors in the wake of a humanitarian disaster.

Twitter is also a valuable tool, as users can send a simple text from their phone (much more accessible than a laptop or i-pad) with updates, such as “In Conception, all okay” which can ease worry, and keep MSF efforts focused on those who need help.

Facebook pages can galvinize survivors and supporters offering updates, information (such as geological updates and tsunami warnings) and post updates on patients served by MSF. Chile is ranked 5th in the world for percentage of Facebook users, despite being a smaller country, so this platform makes sense.

Since many disasters hit with little notice or minimal preparation time, disaster plans should be implemented, rehearsed, and the publics should be educated. Medecins sans frontiers and other relief organizations can use the social media platform to streamline their services and efforts saving time and minimizing confusion. Who can forget the images of those tearful searches for loved ones on the tv news stations with simply a photo or a poster after 9/11? In the wake of a disaster, every second counts, and if a social media tool can save time and help answer questions quickly, then every avenue should be explored, tested, and if it proves to be useful and relevant, it should be implemented.

One Response to “Social Media Tools Help Humanitarian Aid Organizations”

  1. MSF is a really interesting organization and your point about how social media could really help the organization to achieve their mission and build awareness about their work is a good point. What was missing here was more than an incidental connection to Chile. Clearly they had an operation in the country during the crisis, but how does this relate to how people are using the Internet in Chile and what else they could be doing specifically in that region? Ultimately, this post seemed to focus more on looking at MSF as an organization and how they could more effectively use social media – but missed a more concrete connection to the country of the week and your assignment for the week.

    Outside of that, to really look at the potential for social media for MSF, you would have to look outside of just Facebook and Twitter where they don’t seem to be very active. What about YouTube, where they have videos talking about their “Stop the Virus” campaign ( or their plans to engage patient bloggers to share the experience of having TB ( or their podcast (

    Each is an interesting example of using social media, though they are all outside of the crisis arena that you focused on. Bringing some of those efforts into your post would have given you a more direct connection to what they were already doing and made this post much stronger on the topic that you did write about. (3 + 1 for early posting = 4)

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