UNESCO launches Mobile Multimedia Unit for internally displaced persons in Haiti

Published on 28 June 2010

Author(s): UNESCO/Porte-au-Prince

Type:  News

To address the problem of isolation of internally displaced persons in Haiti, UNESCO has launched a Mobile Multimedia Unit (MMU) project. The project aims to facilitate the appropriation of new communication tools, especially by youth, in order to increase access to information, build community resilience and encourage social cohesion in the camps.
In Haiti, people living in camps often go even without the most basic necessities.

They also lack means of communication, which leaves them feeling disconnected from the rest of the country and the world. To ease this sense of isolation and abandonment, UNESCO has set up a Mobile Multimedia Unit (MMU) project in partnership with Medialternatif, the AFP Foundation, Reporters without Borders and the Collectif Haïti de France (CHF). The project was launched on 21 June 2010 at the Petionville golf course and will be rolled out in a number of other camps in the coming weeks.

The Petionville golf course in Port-au-Prince, which has hosted some 50,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) since the tragedy of 12 January, is probably the biggest IDP camp in Haiti. Amidst the tree-covered hills, one can see an endless patchwork of tents, tarpaulins and improvised plastic shelters of different colours. Yet, despite the rain that falls too often, the feeling of abandonment and the many hardships, people are trying to live – or rather, survive.

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Multimedia Mobile Unit (UNESCO/Mehdi Benchelah)

MMU, called Telesant mobil in Creole, consists of eight laptop computers (16 at a later stage), each with a wireless Internet connection, that travel from camp to camp. Set up under a tent in one of six different camps in or around Port-au-Prince per day, and returning to each camp on the same day every week, MMU provides computer and Internet access for IDPs. The six camps included in the project are Petionville golf course, Corail Cessless, Tabarre Issa, Kid, Acra and Les Sœurs Salésiennes de Carrefour.

MMU received a warm welcome from the Petionville golf course camp management and the committee tasked with selecting the young women and men who would participate in the first computer training session. 60 people, from 11 to 29 years old, could finally attend the fist day. Some participants were quick to look for the information they needed. Ruth Jean, 21, who recently finished her studies in nursing, explains: « This project gives me the possibility to do research in my field. Here in the camps, there are a lot of sexually transmitted infections and many people suffer from them. The Internet gives me the possibility to increase my knowledge of this kind of disease and help in a better way. »

The general objective of the project is to facilitate the appropriation of new communication tools by IDPs, particularly youth, in order to increase their access to information, build community resilience and encourage social cohesion in the camps.

Petionville Haiti Unesco multimedia project.jpg

Petionville, Haiti (UNESCO/Mehdi Benchelah)

Each camp will create a blog that will be run by the participants themselves. They will be able to use cameras and computers to report on the realities in their camps and to upload them to the web. The six blogs will be linked to one another, and will also be housed on a special page of the Alterpresse website, Medialternatif’s press agency. In this way, information coming from the camps will have the possibility to reach other segments of the population and media, as well as Internet users throughout the world.

The project is further intended to strengthen skills and increase knowledge in order to facilitate IDPs’ return home. Through two activity leaders, MMU provides training in basic computer literacy. Many people in Haiti have never even had the chance to use a computer or surf the Internet. MMU, therefore, also functions as a non-formal education centre, contributing to the diversification of the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) among young displaced persons.

For more advanced users, MMU provides the chance to look for jobs, find information on microcredit, research options for training or study and scholarship opportunities, or start a small business. MMU aims to broaden the horizons of people living in the camps and to help them explore the vast possibilities of the Internet. For example, participants will be encouraged to look for model CVs and letters of motivation. Having a proper resume and cover letter will undoubtedly help many IDPs in their search for jobs, either with local and international NGOs or with the private sector.

Established in full cooperation with the communities, the Mobile Multimedia Unit project is also fostering relationships among the people of the camps, especially the youth – promoting a sense of unity, giving hope for the future and reducing the possibility of seduction into gang activity or other harmful behaviour.

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