Tag Archives: haiti

Conference discusses reporting on disasters

While everyone’s attention was focused on some conference in Philadelphia, the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting and Boston University were busy putting on a show of their own, this one focused entirely on reporting on disasters (agenda).

As is the fashion, the highlights of the conference were on Twitter (#disasterstrikes) within seconds (and aggregated in this CoverItLive feed seconds after that), which means it’s time to speed-read through the conference with a little Covering Health roundup. @BUPublicHealth coordinated the live discussion and thus we relied heavily on their work. I edited tweets to add attribution where appropriate.

haiti-aid-workersPhoto by EDV Media Director via Flickr
  • @BUPublicHealth: (John Hammock of Tufts University, former director of Oxfam America) International aid is very helpful but most people survive using their own coping strategies #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: (Carroll Bogert from the Human Rights Watch): We at Human Rights Watch are reporters who advocate for policy change. (Human Rights Watch is an NGO btw) #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: (USA Today reporter Donna Leinwand Leger): Self sufficiency crucial. “You can’t, as a journalist with any ethical compunction, be a burden on these countries.” #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: Dorsinville: Size of conference and attendance dispels myth that Haiti has been forgotten #DisasterStrikes
  • @gonevertigo: #DisasterStrikes (Nancy Dorsinville, senior policy adviser of UN Office to Special Envoy to Haiti): the relationship between stretched-thin government resources and deadline journalists can be tense
  • @BUPublicHealth: (Boston Medical Center physician Thea James): The training we have is not to speak to the media unless given direct permission. #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: (Monica Onyango, BU professor in the department of international health) It’s important to recognize the local responders. They are heroes as well. #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: (Konbit Sante executive director Nate Nickerson) 1. if tell a story, it has to be factually accurate; 2. it needs to be contextualized somehow; (cont) #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: Doing it right: 3. Story sheds light doesn’t just generate sensationalism; 4. Story gives voice to ppl being impacted #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: (Mass. General physician Larry Ronan): Having a large media presence at these events can influence policy at a large level. #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: (Kerry Sanders, Miami-based NBC correspondent): Journos need to know first aid. #DisasterStrikes
  • @BUPublicHealth: Sanders: Journos can be obnoxious. After Chilean miners rescued, journos tried to sneak into hospital dressed as drs. #DisasterStrikes


CDC: Cholera has spread throughout Haiti

Ron Lin, of the Los Angeles Times, reports that cholera has spread throughout Haiti, according to CDC officials speaking to the CDC-AHCJ Health Journalism Fellows in Atlanta yesterday.

The disease, caused by a bacteria that spreads through tainted drinking water, also is turning up in the Dominican Republic. A Dec. 8 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report says 91,770 cases have been reported nationwide and 43,243 patients had been hospitalized. More than 2,000 have died.


At a community training event in Haiti, aid workers demonstrate how to make a rehydration solution for a patient with cholera.
Photo by EDV Media Director via Flickr

The report comes a day after the Associated Press reported that a contingent of U.N. peacekeepers was the likely source of the cholera outbreak, citing a report written by a scientist who was sent by the French government to assist Haitian health officials.

Soldiers who arrived at the U.N. base, upstream from where the first cases of cholera were reported, soon before the cholera outbreak came from Nepal, according to the story.

Dr. Jordan W. Tappero, director of the Health System Reconstruction Office at the CDC’s Center for Global Health, did tell reporters that the CDC did analyze the cholera strain in Haiti and identified it as a strain that is circulating in South Asia.

Lin is one of 11 AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows visiting the CDC this week. The fellows are attending sessions on epidemiology, global disease prevention efforts, pandemic flu preparedness, climate change, vaccine safety, obesity, autism and have toured the CDC director’s National Emergency Operations Center.

Other dispatches from the AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows:

How the CDC used consumer mapping tech in Haiti

Writing for Government Health IT, Carolyn Duffy Marsan explores the CDC’s reliance on free and open source mapping software and web applications in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. It seems at first almost incongruous, a colossal federal agency working to save lives in the wake of a great disaster using the same Google Maps tools we’d use to plot the shortest route to Costco, but, as Marsan explains, there are fantastic reasons to rely upon free consumer technology in such a situation.

The most obvious, of course, is accessibility. Even in the decentralized chaos that reigned in the hours following the quake, thousands of people on the ground had access to Google Maps, or at least to messaging services that would connect them to people with access to the maps. Likewise, Google Earth’s satellite imagery helped officials in the United States rapidly locate health services, as well as water sources and open areas where displaced locals were likely to congregate, and thus to coordinate first responders and organize on-site data, even from their remote location.


Another advantage, officials told Marsan, was that the data accumulated by American and international agencies in such formats was highly transferable and simple to combine, mash up and eventually hand over to the Haitian government. Furthermore, this data portability has allowed the myriad agencies and individuals involved in the recovery efforts to quickly adopt slightly more specialized tools such as wiki-like OpenStreetMap and the well-known crisis crowdsourcer Ushahidi.

Ushahidi takes data supplied via just about any available format and turns it into something useful through a blend of high technology and human effort.

Ushahidi maps were also used to display field hospitals, pharmacies and medical supplies. Now the group is working with a team of doctors in Boston to create the ability to track the spread of infectious diseases. Ushahidi Haiti has a network of 300 volunteers that help create maps from the thousands of text messages and emails received from the field. Sewell says the data provided by the diaspora has been more accurate than the media in some cases.

In a mapless world like post-quake Haiti, consumer mapping tools helped document the new geography and coordinate efforts, both through OpenStreetMaps, which supplied the first usable maps of the affected areas, and through mobile devices.

“You can’t say, ‘Let’s meet at a particular street,’ because the streets have been destroyed,” (Antonio Zugaldia, an information officer with the Pan American Health Organization’s Emergency Operations Center in Washington DC) said. “Instead, you offer a real-time location using GPS on your BlackBerry and you can share that with your colleagues with Google Latitude. You can then easily divide your team into sub-teams and keep track of them. It’s a very simple tool that provided an excellent service.”

M.D. journalist suggests guidelines for dual roles

Tom Linden, M.D., looks at the role of physician reporters in covering disasters, particularly in light of the Haiti earthquake which saw a number of high-profile physician reporters cover the story and render care.

As Linden points out in the Electronic News journal, the networks promoted their reporters’ medical efforts and showed them providing care. He brings up a number of relevant questions about the duties of a physician reporter, whether network s or stations should promote them providing care, privacy of patients and more.

Beyond asking questions and discussing the implications of such coverage and promotion, Linden proposes a set of guidelines “to help clarify boundaries between medical and journalistic practices.”

In short, he says it’s bad journalism and inappropriate for physician reporters to report on themselves providing care.

When physician journalists become the story, medical reporting loses its way.

Linden, a professor of medical journalism in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and director of the medical and science journalism program, is no stranger to the subject, as he has worked as a medical journalist for CNBC and local news stations.


MSNBC tells of earthquake amputees, soldiers

In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, an MSNBC team has set out to cover, through a variety of media, an American prosthetic group working at a rural hospital to fit limbs to hundreds of earthquake amputees. At the same time, the team is sharing personal essays written by American soldiers who lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s an unusual post-disaster focus that has yielded some impressive stories.

Here are a few of the most notable dispatches: