Medecins sans frontiers www.msf.org, 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.