PART III OCHA COORDINATION ACTIVITIES IN THE FIELD
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
IRIN is an independent news service covering Sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East. It was established in 1995 to provide accurate and timely information on events and issues of concern to humanitarian workers and decision-makers in donor and host governments. The project also attempts to ensure that local populations in humanitarian crises can access credible information to help them make informed decisions about their futures and welfare.
IRIN provides this information through text and radio services. In 2005, it enhanced its advocacy efforts with the provision of an increasingly multi-media output, including photos, short films and reports, which can be used to highlight key concerns, such as emerging or neglected crises.
• Consolidate the existing news services to ensure continued timely, accurate and impartial reporting on humanitarian issues in the regions covered
• Inform humanitarian decision-making and response by producing special reports, analysis and film documentaries focused on evolving crises, post-conflict countries, forgotten emergencies and such as gender-base violence
• Establish the Middle East service to provide coverage of under-reported humanitarian and human security issues in the region. Based in Dubai, expand reporting to include Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory and Egypt, with an Arabic service available later in the year
• Improve the flow of information to those affected by conflict by reinforcing the existing radio service and expanding to new countries and areas of concern
In line with readership feedback, IRIN placed greater emphasis on contextual analysis in its African coverage, and increased its output in Asia and theMiddle East. Overall news output increased by seven percent on 2004, with some 7,284 reports produced, including over 1,700 in local languages.
PlusNews consolidated its position as a leading provider of HIV/AIDS news in Africa by launching French and Portuguese language services, aimed primarily at informing Francophone and Lusaphone communities in western and southern Africa respectively.
IRIN continued its commitment to informing humanitarian decision-making and response to evolving and neglected crises. It launched coverage of the deteriorating human rights situation in Nepal and established daily, on-the-ground coverage from Pakistan after the earthquake there, producing some 150 reports from the affected area. In addition, six ‘in-depth’ reports were produced tackling issues of particular concern – such as refugee return, political tensions in Guinea, ARV treatment – and a major publication addressed gender-based violence worldwide.
IRIN TV trebled its production of footage on under-reported issues and country-specific situations, including the impact of malaria in Ethiopia, HIV/AIDS on Lake Victoria in Kenya, the Niger drought and food crisis, and the impact on civilians of the conflict in Nepal. A documentary on violence against women affected by conflict in the DRC and Liberia won a top award in the 2005 film festival Stories from the Field, hosted by the New School University in New York.
Video footage on key humanitarian concerns was produced and distributed directly to broadcast networks such as SABC and CBC, while 30 news packages were distributed to over 400 broadcasters globally via a daily satellite feed managed by Associated Press.
IRIN expanded its Middle East service from coverage of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq to include humanitarian concerns in the region. The Dubai office was set up in early 2005, and a network of freelance writers trained and established in the ensuing months. Humanitarian reporting on seven focus countries gradually increased, with the service producing three to four articles per week from each, as well as daily coverage from Iraq. The launch of an Arabic website and coverage of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory were postponed to 2006.
Funding of the IRIN Radio project, primarily by the Human Security Trust Fund, allowed for its expansion to promote peace in Côte d’Ivoire and HIV/AIDS awareness in Lesotho. A new radio initiative aimed at creating HIV/AIDS awareness was launched for the Lagos-Abidjan trucking corridor. The “Let’s Talk” soap opera in Burundi played a leading role in keeping dialogue going between Burundians at home and those in camps in western Tanzania, while another soap opera and current affairs programme received widespread acclaim from Angolans struggling with post-conflict reconstruction.
IRIN’s annual readership survey, devised to gauge the service’s added value, recorded that IRIN maintained both the quality and relevance of reports. Almost 90 percent of respondents rated IRIN coverage as “good to excellent” overall. IRIN registered the largest ever readership growth in the overall number of unique monthly web visitors (812,000) and e-mail subscribers (37,000), representing 45 and 24 percent growth respectively on the previous year. Based on 2004 survey results, global readership is estimated to be over 1 million.
Significant gains were observed in 2005 in the number of mainstream and national news organizations reprinting IRIN text reports and photographs, and using video materials. Tracking of usage identified that over 500 news sites in 73 countries – including wire services such as Agence France Presse, BBC monitoring and Spain’s Europa Press – regularly cited IRIN or reprinted articles.
Direct feedback by users of the documentaries has demonstrated that film material has been used extensively by new user constituencies, in addition to IRIN’s core humanitarian audience. Student, teacher, political and civil society groups have used documentaries to raise awareness of the issues raised in the films. IRIN is planning a more effective feedback system to better measure the impact of its multi-media output.
E-mail subscribers and website visitors increased globally, while many users confirmed that they redistribute articles to thousands of other readers via external and internal mailing lists. Subscribers to the Middle East service grew by 38 percent compared to 2004.Middle East articles were among the most frequently accessed on the IRIN website, with several articles viewed by over 6,000 visitors. The uptake by international and local media (including the Yemen Times, Islam Online, The Daily Star and Jordan Times) highlighted the dearth of stories addressing humanitarian issues in mainstream media coverage.
An independent evaluation in 2005 concluded that IRIN delivered high-quality outputs through all its radio services, and was well received by primary beneficiaries, especially displaced persons and refugees. In particular, it concluded that radio services helped decision-making among affected communities.