WHO uses Mxit, JamiiX to tackle disasters

1 February 2011

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) South-East Asia regional office has teamed up with popular mobile social networks MXit and JamiiX – both developed in South Africa – to bring emergency preparedness information to chat users in disaster-prone Indonesia.

This new approach is part of WHO’s wider effort to strengthen disaster preparedness in the region and build public awareness of the urgent need for safe hospitals in disaster zones.

“The WHO campaign illustrates the value and power of social networking in assisting communities that need help most,” Mxit founder and CEO Herman Heunis said in a statement last week.

“As climate change and severe weather variations take a hold of many locations around the world, it makes sense to develop ways for communities and countries to receive life-saving information and assistance in a reliable and affordable way.

“We commend WHO for initiating this important project.”

Leveraging new technology

Indonesians using MXit chat will be able to access personal preparedness information, including what to do in the case of natural disasters like floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and cyclones, how to prepare an emergency kit, and how to plan for possible evacuation.

This information is teamed up with facts on safe hospitals in disaster zones and ways, as an individual, to support WHO’s drive for safe health facilities.

“We are leveraging new communication technology in order to ease the availability, accessibility, and effectiveness of health information and services,” said Dr Roderico Ofrin, regional adviser for WHO’s emergency and humanitarian action. “Through this campaign we will continue to explore innovative means of bringing critical information in times of emergencies.”

Power of social media

Over the last decade, more than half-a-million people in South-East Asia have died in devastating floods, cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis. People living in the region can support the campaign by adding their voice and signing up on MXit to assist WHO to reach its one-million supporter target.

“Being able to access life-saving information at your fingertips is an empowering initiative by WHO, and we are excited to be part of this campaign, which displays the power of social media,” said Marlon Parker, CEO of JamiiX and founder of RLabs.

SAinfo reporter

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