Translators without Borders (TWB) is pleased to announce funding for a pilot of its Words of Relief system to improve communications between aid workers and local populations during humanitarian emergencies. The funding by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) recognizes the critical role language and translation play in improving crisis response and saving lives.
Translators without Borders will test the concept in Kenya with Swahili and Somali, and will work collaboratively with a number of partners including UN-OCHA, the Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities Network (CDAC-N), Acrolinx, Content Rules and Microsoft. TWB was one of six projects to receive funding in HIF’s fifth round of funding; total funding for the projects exceeded one million dollars.
Kim Scriven, manager of the HIF said: “This round of funding has identified an exciting and diverse range of innovative ideas at the forefront of the humanitarian system.” The HIF, supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), funds projects across the world which use innovation and technology to improve the global response to natural disasters and humanitarian crises.
Words of Relief was developed to address a critical problem: two-way communications during and immediately after a crisis. During a prolonged crisis or following a sudden-onset crisis, one of the most immediate priorities for both relief workers and victims is disseminating and receiving information. Yet language barriers frequently complicate this effort. This was particularly apparent after the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake/tsunami in Japan, when NGOs and frontline aid workers realized they were unprepared and unable to communicate in the primary languages of the affected populations. According to a 2012 report by the International Organization for Migration, “Affected households prefer receiving information in their regional language…. [but] the role of regional and local languages is often neglected while devising communication strategies.”
Words of Relief aims to eliminate linguistic barriers that can impede vital response and relief efforts during and after a crisis by 1) building a corps of vetted translators and interpreters, as well as machine translation capacity, in under-resourced world languages; 2) preparing a digital “inventory” of essential crisis response information in multiple local languages that can be accessed on demand by aid organizations, frontline relief workers, and affected communities; and 3) maintaining a network of human and technological linguistic resources that can be mobilized immediately in response to a crisis. The pilot of the program will test processes and technologies to be used in development of a worldwide network.
The pilot is a 17-month project, commencing in November.
For further information contact: Rebecca Petras [email protected]