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article imageAs Haiti seeks information, 'Voice of America" radio fills void

By Steven Z.K. Nickels     Jan 17, 2010 in World
The 'Voice of America' radio service has increased its Creole-language broadcasts in Haiti in an effort to get news and information to the population of the earthquake-devastated country.
The Voice of America (VOA) radio service has been working since the 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, to get news and information to the Haitian people in the devastated country. The U.S. government-funded, international radio service said in a statement that it was broadcasting 1.5 hours of daily programming before the quake but since the quake has increased that to five hours per day.
VOA's Latin America division chief, Alberto Mascaro, said that VOA is "doing everything we possibly can to reach people in Haiti who have a desperate need for information."
VOA said it is providing information to the Haitian people through broadcasts in Creole, a primarily French-based language spoken by most Haitians, creation of Creole-language Facebook and Twitter accounts, and establishment of a special informational phone number for those seeking information about their relatives in the country.
According to the VOA it is using shortwave, AM and satellite radio broadcasts to deliver programming to the country, where its radio audience included over 50 percent of the population prior to the quake. And in a country where only about 50 percent of the people can read, radio broadcasts provide a vital communication and news source for its people.
VOA said that within hours of the 7.0 earthquake, they broadcast a "90-minute special program" into Haiti. The broadcast included statements "of support," (from the U.S. government), "updates from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Red Cross, the United Nations and Haitian geologists; and interviews from Haiti."
And to assist the large numbers of people that have not heard from family and friends inside the country, VOA has set up a special phone number for people to leave messages that will be broadcast into Haiti. The phone number for that service is 1-202-205-9942, mailbox 42, according to VOA.
VOA Director Danforth Austin said that, In times of crises, VOA is a lifeline of information. Because of our technologies, we are able to reach people in their own languages when disasters strike. Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti, and we'll continue to give them the latest, accurate news.
Joan Mower, VOA's director of development and public relations, said, when reached by phone, that VOA now has both English and Creole speaking reporters in Haiti to provide news updates. She said VOA also has local news "stringers" (part-timers) in the country but since Internet and phone service is still spotty, VOA has not been able to contact all of them. She also said some Haitian employees in the Washington, D.C., headquarters of VOA were still trying to contact relatives in the country to check on their safety.
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