Communication is a concept that is frequently used in conjunction with “information”, “advocacy”, “coordination”, “management”, “fundraising” and “marketing” in humanitarian documents. Another important related concept is “engagement”; this may reflect a common usage of the concept in combination with “risk communication and community engagement”, particularly in the context of epidemics. 

Communication, as it is referred to in the document collection, comes in many forms: “internal”, “external”, “public”, “personal”, “digital”. Usages include “communication technology”, “tool”, “channel”, “material”, as well as “systems”, “strategy”, “campaign” and “activity”.


  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of humanitarian communication strategies? 
  • What forms of communication are frequently used by humanitarian actors, and for what purpose?
  • Why do humanitarian organisations sometimes communicate about their beneficiaries in an undignified manner? 
  • How does communication relate to community engagement?
  • What is the potential for communication technology and digital communication to improve communication in humanitarian settings? What are the challenges and limitations?
  • How have social media and mass media changed communication in the humanitarian sector?
  • “Communication with communities” did not feature in linguistic analysis, but is a commonly used term by humanitarian actors. What does it mean and why is important?

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Please note: The overview on this page represents a first summary and exploratory analysis of the concept, proposed by the HE core team for discussion, on the basis of preliminary linguistic data. It is not the full concept entry which will be based on rigorous linguistic methodology and collaboration with humanitarian practitioners and experts.

Coming soon: Expanded concept explanations, visualisations and analysis for this and 17 other COVID-19 related concepts.

Communication has been used fairly consistently over time in humanitarian documents, with a slight increase around 2013-2016.

The spread across regions is also even, with Africa most frequent and North America the least frequent

The Red Cross/Red Crescent movement, Networks and Project/Service providers refer to communication more frequently in the document collection than other types of organisations.

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