Behaviour Change Communication in Emergencies - A Toolkit

image of cd cover
© UNICEF/HQ/Jeremy Horner

MALDIVES: Rizuana, 11 years old is a survivor from the December 2004 tsunami disaster

Date: 19 April 2006

Language: English

Source: UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia

Themes/topics: behaviour change, communication, emergencies, monitoring, evaluation, assessment

The toolkit stresses the importance of participation and consultation with affected individuals, particularly children and young people. Complementary to this toolkit, UNICEF ROSA has developed an Education in Emergencies Training Package intended for UNICEF education programme officers at all levels - region, country and headquarters.

Behaviour change communication (BCC) in emergencies is a consultative process among communication specialists, technical experts, local change agents and communities. It addresses the knowledge, attitudes and practices of individuals, families and communities. It aims to share relevant and action-oriented information and to motivate programme specialists to work with communication specialists in preparing strategic communication for disasters - so that if a disaster strikes, people in affected communities would know what actions to take to maintain and protect their health and well-being as well as how and where to access emergency services and supplies. BCC should be planned in close cooperation with a given programme as an integral part of an emergency preparedness and response plan.

BCC is grounded on the human-rights based and results-based approach to programme planning and development. It is geared towards facilitating community mobilisation and participation in preparing and responding to disasters. That affected communities are too shocked and helpless to take responsibilities for their own survival has been proven to be a myth. On the contrary, many affected people, especially children, experience psychosocial healing and are able to return to normalcy faster when they participate in helping others during and after an emergency.

This toolkit is a resource for everyone working caused by natural disasters. It is designed to help programme managers from UNICEF, UN agencies, NGO partners and government personnel to prepare, plan, implement and monitor behaviour change communication initiatives supporting health, hygiene and child protection efforts in emergencies.

You do not have to be a communication expert to use this toolkit. But you should be ready to use participatory approaches which are proven to influence people to make informed decisions, take action and adopt positive behaviours.

The toolkit has three parts: an overview section, several programmatic chapters and many practical tools to plan, implement and monitor a BCC initiative for emergencies. If you require more technical background information on the different programmatic areas, please refer to UNICEF’s Emergency Field Handbook or UNICEF’s Technical Notes: Special Considerations for Programming In Unstable Situations, or see some of the other literature recommended in the Further Reading section of the Resource Bank offered at the end of each programmatic chapter.

Many communication efforts launched in emergency responses, such as those following the 26 December 2004 tsunami, tend to focus on media advocacy and public information.

From early May until the end of June 2005, UNICEF ROSA went on several visits to India Sri Lanka and the Maldives as part of the regional documentation of the tsunami response.

This toolkit aims to generate ideas and provide some stepping stones for programmers to get started in planning, managing and monitoring behaviour change communication for emergencies.

The UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (UNICEF EAPRO) produced a parallel initiative called CREATE!, a DVD collection (“toolbox”) of ready-to-use or easy to adapt communication materials for emergencies with sample messages on various programmatic areas, including avian flu.

As you develop the strategic communication plan and implementation protocol for an emergency using this toolkit as a guide, you can then match the messages using adapted or modified images and other materials from the CREATE! toolbox to fit your audience’s socio-cultural and physical contexts.

Regional Programme Communication Advisor
UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA)
P.O. Box 5815, Lekhnath Marg
Kathmandu, Nepal

Behaviour Change Communication in Emergencies - A Toolkit (pdf)
part 2 (pdf)
Also available in the UNICEF CEE/CIS website