From October 30th to November 3rd, 2023, Everjoy Grace Chiimba and Rupa Rupa attended the Northern European Emergency and Disaster Studies (NEEDS) Conference hosted at the University of Twente in Enschede, Netherlands. The conference theme “Building Disaster-Resilient Societies”, brought together a diverse group of practitioners and academics from various disciplines, engaged in disaster resilient work. Everjoy presented in a session on “Social Media and Disaster Communication.” Her paper, entitled “Disaster Communication on Twitter (now X): A Catalyst for Civic Engagement Amongst Zimbabweans in the Aftermath of Cyclone Idai,” offered a perspective on the use of social media as well as issues and thoughts by people observing the disaster “from a distance” (Soriano et al. 2016). Her presentation provided valuable insights into the power of digital platforms for disaster communication beyond the disaster in a restrictive communication landscape. She was also part of the closing ceremony reflections panel.
Rupa’s engagement during the conference included participating in the photo competition that showcased powerful and inspiring images of disaster research and management from around the world. Additionally, she presented a captivating poster showcasing her ongoing research project, titled “Exploring the Socio-Historical Complexity of Disasters Through Serious Games: Virtual Insights into the Diverse Experiences and Challenges of Living and Working in a Flood-Prone Region.” Her poster not only captivated the audience but also demonstrates the design and development of serious games to make underlying social complexities, local dynamics, and conflicts in flood-prone regions accessible, with a primary goal of enhancing user understanding of diverse stakeholder perspectives to inform the development of effective flood risk management policies, emphasizing the crucial role of past experiences and memories in disaster management for comprehensive risk reduction efforts.
The experience at the conference was not limited to the conference sessions and lectures. We also had the opportunity to join the “Urban Climate Change Adaptation Cycleshop Excursion,” which was led by Koen Wagelaar, an expert in green urban infrastructure from the municipality of Enschede. During this excursion, we cycled through the streets of Enschede, gaining a firsthand understanding of the green urban infrastructure measures in place. Participation in the NEEDS Conference was an enriching experience that broadened our perspectives and understanding of disaster resilience from different parts of the world.