While television and new technologies like Internet and cell phones are the focus of strategy at the Broadcasting Board of Governors that oversees the U.S. government’s international broadcasting assets, shortwave radio remains by far the most effective means of reaching audiences around the world, particularly in the developing countries. It is far from an outdated technology, as is sometimes allleged. A highly relevant case in point is earthquake-stricken Haiti, the poorest and most underdeveloped country in the Americas.

Since the earthquake on January 12, Voice of America has expanded its broadcasts in creole to 10.5 hour a day during the week and 9.5 hour during weekends. The international broadcaster reaches 45 different countries and has a worldwide audience of more then 125 million with 1,500 hours of news and programming weekly. The effort to reach out to Haiti is an example of a desperate need for information being filled that is not related to the Middle East or the war on terror, which has been the focus of efforts of U.S. international broadcasting in recent years. To achieve this focus, the BBG has been cutting important services (like Ukrainian, Georgian and Russian) and broadcast hours in English to increase programming to the Middle East. Yet as the case of Haiti shows, surge capacity remains critical when catastrophic events elsewhere in the world demands it.

What listeners in Haiti will be able to hear on VOA, among other things, is an interview with former President George W. Bush, assuring Haitians that the world will not forget about them. As will be recalled, and as proposed by the Heritage Foundation, Bush was tapped along with former President Bill Clinton by President Obama to spearhead the earthquake relief efforts on behalf of the administration. The Haiti Fund started by the two presidents has so far raised $10 million.

“I fully understand the anguish that the people of Haiti feel,” Bush told VOA “I hope the people of Haiti know that our government is doing everything it can with our military and USAID to get food, medicine and water to you as quickly as possible.”

“The first lesson, of course, is that aid never gets to the people fast enough,” Bush said. “I fully understand the frustrations and the anger. The people of Haiti have just got to know we hear their cries of anguish.” He added, “The people of Haiti are not alone.”

President Bush also stated that the commitment of the United States will last beyond the earthquake relief. It will take a monumental efforts and international coordination and cooperation to create a functioning society in Haiti, a tough job to begin with and overwhelming at a time when some 200,000 people are believed to have perished. Including short wave radios among the items that are distributed as aid in Haiti could be saving lives now, and help rebuild Haitian society later.