By Akanimo Sampson
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is moving quickly to mobilise resources to assist rehabilitation efforts in Abaco and Grand Bahama, islands in the Bahamas devastated last week by Hurricane Dorian.
The rehabilitation initiative is on as search and rescue operations continue. On Monday, IOM started the distribution of 1,000 tarpaulin coats in Marsh Harbour – the largest urban centre in Abaco. The tarps will be used as a temporary fix for roofs torn by the violent Category 5 storm.
This is however, happening as a new report by the IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) in collaboration with the migration agency’s Media and Communications Division (MCD) provides robust evidence on the positive impact of peer-to-peer awareness raising on the decision-making of potential migrants in West Africa.The report Migrants as Messengers – The Impact of Peer-to-Peer Communication on Potential Migrants in Senegalreleased on Monday in Geneva reveals that 19 per cent of potential migrants surveyed were better informed, 25 per cent more aware of the risks of irregular migration and one-in-five less likely to do so after participating in IOM awareness raising events in Dakar, Senegal, relative to a control group who did not.Head of Impact Evaluation Unit, GMDAC, Jasper Tjaden, said “measuring the impact of communications campaigns is notoriously difficult. Migrants as Messengers has been subjected to the kind of stress test rarely applied to campaign work that validates IOM’s approach of empowering trusted migrant voices to educate their peers.”
IOM’s Missing Migrants Project reports more than 14,000 people have died attempting to enter Europe irregularly since 2014, a figure that is likely greatly under-estimated. Years of field surveys consistently reveal that many migrants begin their journeys with little accurate information about the dangers they face along the way. Many fall victim to misinformation circulated by human smugglers, traffickers and, unwittingly, other migrants.At its heart, Migrants as Messengers is a campaign undertaken by migrants for migrants. Using a participatory design approach, it builds on direct and authentic communication among peers of the same community who have been identified as trusted, influential voices, rather than the top-down messaging that is a feature of many traditional communications campaigns.
The awareness raising events evaluated for today’s report featured a film screening of personal testimonials of returning Senegalese migrants sharing their own journeys. These authentic testimonials were captured by trained returnees using IOM’s Community Response App, a smartphone-based digital storytelling toolkit.
The film was followed by a discussion about migration between returnees and community members.
The impact evaluation is IOM’s first randomised controlled trial, considered the most rigorous and scientific way of evaluating the effect of a programme or policy. The report is the first in a series of similar impact evaluations that will assess the effects of IOM information and awareness raising campaigns, and responds directly to a 2017 GMDAC study that identified clear evidence gaps.
These studies will contribute to achieving Objective 3 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which calls for more “evidence-based information campaigns” and aim to support a global culture of evidence-informed policymaking.
The report is co-funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
IOM’s Community Engagement Programme Manager, Amy Rhoades, said“communications of one type or another is at the core of much of IOM’s work, but meaningful evaluations require time and resources: the days of measuring impact by the number of fliers distributed and radio PSAs broadcast are gone.
“In this light, the Netherlands government, which funded the first phase of Migrants as Messengers being presented today, should be congratulated for their work identifying gaps in the assessments of past migrant-focused campaigns, issuing clear, insightful recommendations and a way forward that demand greater accountability for the projects they are funding.”
In the mean time, in places like Marsh Harbour, the devastation is particularly startling. Communities such as The Mudd and Pigeon Pea, where 70 per cent of informal housing in Abaco existed and where an overwhelming majority of Haitian migrants resided, has been decimated.
“The Mudd is gone”, said IOM’s Brian Kelly, who is now leading the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team in the area. “They (the Haitian migrants) are in a very tough situation, just as many of the Bahamians. A lot of people are facing very difficult circumstances and we’re going to help out as much as we can.”
On Sunday, IOM participated in an assessment mission to Abaco, along with representatives from UNICEF, UNDP and Mission of Hope. The team visited most of the emergency shelters on the island.
“According to official reports, approximately 76,000 people were affected by Dorian. Thousands of people have been evacuated from the affected areas; about 860 people are being housed in emergency shelters in Nassau. The rest of the people remain in the affected areas”, said Vynliz Dailey, the IOM officer in the assessment mission. “No electricity or running water is available, and parts of the affected communities, particularly in Abaco, are destroyed and are uninhabitable.”
Jan-Willem Wegdam, IOM’s emergency response coordinator, has met with the office of the Prime Minister and other government officials responsible for mass evacuation and emergency shelter, to coordinate the response to the affected population.
“We are committed to using all resources made available to us to support the Government and people of Bahamas during this difficult time”, declared Wegdam. “We have specialists and experts on the ground and on the way to ensure that we deliver the best possible service to those who need it the most in the shortest possible time. Even during the emergency phase, we are focused on medium- and long-term strategies that will contribute to the development of the islands.”
Wegdam stated that IOM is preparing to roll out its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) and support the coordination of emergency shelters and household repair solutions, among other responses. To this end, experts on Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM), Migrants in Countries in Crises (MICIC) and DTM will be deployed this week to strengthen the team on the ground and to begin project implementation.