bbc viber nepali
Credit: Screenshot from BBC Viber

The BBC has launched a public service channel in chat app Viber to help victims of the recent earthquake in Nepal.

The "lifeline" service will deliver vital information in Nepalese and English to a new BBC Nepali public channel in the messaging app, targeting the "three to four million" Viber users in the country, according to Trushar Barot, mobile editor at BBC World Service.

"The actual content will be very simple and straightforward, primarily text messages," Barot told, with the majority of content coming from the BBC Nepali website and Facebook page, which itself has more than 1.7 million followers.

BBC Nepali has already been working with the BBC's international development charity Media Action to develop and broadcast public service announcements (PSAs) and these will be "re-versioned" for the Viber service as well.

"They will contain information such as what is the best way to stay safe," Barot continued. "So you should be staying on high ground, sleeping in the open air, what sort of precautions you should take and things you should have with you."

As the situation develops and aftershocks dissipate, the types of announcements will evolve to reflect the needs of those affected: where to find help and how to stay healthy when infrastructure has collapsed.

"We're getting to the point where sanitation will increasingly become more and more of an issue and the type of content we produce will have to keep pace with the changing situation."

bbc viber
Screenshot of the BBC Nepali Viber channel, courtesy of Barot

The Viber "lifeline" service follows a successful BBC experiment to deliver information about Ebola to WhatsApp users in West Africa launched last October, a service which now has more than 22,000 subscribers.

Unlike the WhatsApp service, the Viber channel will not include audio or other multimedia due to the "data penetration and consumption capabilities" in Nepal. Mobile subscriptions number 75 per cent of the Nepali population, but internet connectivity is still only at 13 per cent, according to figures from 2013.

The Viber channel will not have a push notification service like WhatsApp either, said Barot, with users following the channel "more like a Facebook page experience".

From a publishing perspective the platform is far easier to use though, he said, with a dedicated desktop publishing service. The project took 36 hours "from initial idea to launch" as the BBC tries to "collapse the launch cycle" of digital initiatives.

"It's probably not going to have the same impact as WhatsApp in West Africa but it's a relatively low level of activity in terms of the resourcing requirement for us to extend reach to more people who are already on Viber."

The latest figures from the UN estimate more than eight million people have been affected by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that shook central Nepal on Saturday, with more than 5,000 killed, 11,000 injured and 70,000 homes destroyed.

Viber subscribers can access the BBC lifeline channel at

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