When is silence a cry for help?
Sometimes the absence of information emerging in a disaster is a cry for help. Modern social media data mining tools have been advancing their capabilities in order to find the signal in the noise of social media. But sometimes, the very absence of noise is a cry for help. In a catastrophic disaster, just because a community has not asked for help does not mean they do not need help.
Communications and power outages can severely impact the ability or capability of a community to ask for help.
In 2013, after Super Typhoon Yolanda, Humanity Road monitored more than a million tweets which were auto filtered for potential high priority needs and after reviewing those; began searching on tweets to find specific locations that appeared to have no tweets at all but were in the path of the storm. What we found was astonishing.
We relayed several communities to an official response team that had aerial search capabilities advising them that these locations might be under served based on what we were observing online. Based on those referrals 121 people were rescued and another 10,000 receive food and water.
In 2014, after Typhoon Ruby struck the Philippines, Humanity Road picked up a single tweet from a relative of someone in Santa Rita indicating that as of December 8th, no aid had reached the community of Santa Rita. Santa Rita is a municipality with a population of about 30,000 and is located in Western Samar in the Eastern Visayas. On a good day it is just a 40 minute drive from Tacloban. It seemed unlikely that this community was under served but in reviewing multiple information sources, we found an absence of any reported aid being provided to the community. After relaying requests to various aid agencies and officials, we were notified on December 13th that assessments were underway in Santa Rita and sadly the damage is quite severe and the need there is great.
Our appreciation and thanks to those who have provided their assistance in getting these assessments and aid underway for this community including World Vision. But most especially, a very special thank you to the staff and volunteers of the Young Pioneers Disaster Response team for their rapid response to our request to deploy to Santa Rita to assess the situation.
As we close out our 2014 disaster response operations, we wish to thank those who donate their time and financial support to make this incredibly important work possible.