Learn more about IRIN
Integrated Regional Information Networks, commonly known as IRIN, is a project of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) tasked with providing information relevant to those responding to and affected by complex emergencies, such a conflict-induced forced migration, and natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes in sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East. Created in 1995, it is widely used by the humanitarian aid community and others seeking information on complex emergencies and has diversified into a number of subprojects. Operationally, it acts as a news agency, albeit with a particular mandate that directs the topics it covers.
 Origin and development
The scale and complexity of the Great Lakes refugee crisis resulting from the 1994 Rwandan Genocide overwhelmed the information management systems that the humanitarian aid community had in place. In response, IRIN was created to provide timely and non-partisan information of interest to humanitarian workers in the African Great Lakes region and their supervisors in foreign headquarters. The head office of IRIN was created, and continues to be maintained, in Nairobi, Kenya. While IRIN is a project of OCHA, a United Nations agency, the IRIN editorial staff was given editorial independence and every IRIN article lists a disclaimer that it may not reflect the views of the UN.
Since then it has steadily expanded both the geographical region and topics it covers as well as creating more varied products. It claims to have more than one million readers and covers parts of Central Asia and the Middle East, as well as all of sub-Saharan Africa. Sixty-two countries are covered, including the addition of Nepal in 2005. While the majority of material is in English, a smaller amount of articles is available in French, Swahili and Dari. Limited service is planned for Russian, Arabic and Portuguese. IRIN has regional news desks in Nairobi, Johannesburg, Dakar, Ankara and Dubai.
In 2000, IRIN created IRIN Radio to work with radio stations and increase their ability to carry out high quality journalism of local issues. In many of the countries with humanitarian emergencies, much of the population is in remote rural areas, and even those target audiences in cities are often too poor to afford a television or newspaper. Radio is thus the most efficient means of reaching the largest number of people. IRIN radio currently operates in Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan.
In 2001, IRIN identified a need for a news service targeting people living with AIDS in Africa, as well as those treating them, and created an offshoot, PlusNews. Based in Johannesburg, South Africa it has gradually expanded coverage to all of the IRIN countries. In 2004, a French version, PlusNews Français, was created out of Dakar, Senegal with a concentration on HIV/AIDS in West and Central Africa.
IRIN created an Analysis Unit based out of its Nairobi headquarters in 2003 to write in-depth reports on topics that are of importance across countries. Topics include sexual violence in conflict areas, refugee repatriation and landmines. The same year it created a short film on the effects of the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency in northern Uganda to distribute to the media and humanitarian community. In 2004, Nairobi headquarters created a permanent short film unit to create films on underreported issues and of countries of special concern. Films created thus far cover female genital mutilation, the 2004 West Africa locust swarm and opium cultivation in Afghanistan.
 Audience and donors
In a 2004 survey of its email subscribers, IRIN found that 64% of respondents worked within the humanitarian aid community, a further 12% were academics who occasionally advised on humanitarian aid matters and 7% are media sources. The audience of the IRIN website is more diverse, while the number of readers of secondary news sources, e.g. those that repeat IRIN reports in their own publications, is assumed to be much larger than those viewing either the website or subscribing to the email service.