WFP/UN Foundation/Vodafone Group Foundation News Release
WFP TRAINS EXPERTS FOR GLOBAL DISASTER RESPONSE
Pisa, Italy — March 30, 2007
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) graduated the first class of emergency telecommunications team leaders today after an intensive two-week training course-the inaugural session of a new programme for information and communications technology (ICT) managers who are now set for deployment to difficult and dangerous disaster zones.
“The ability to communicate within hours of a crisis-whether it’s an earthquake, a tsunami or a war-is key to the coordination of relief efforts. In line with the huge demand for extensive telecoms technology, ICT workers are often among the first to arrive in a disaster zone,” said Ernesto Baca, Director of WFP's Information & Communications Technologies Division. “Through this programme, we have developed a specialised training that specifically addresses the unique needs of ICT ‘first responders’,” he said.
WFP has the largest ICT emergency response capacity among United Nations humanitarian agencies, and is the UN’s lead agency for communications in support of humanitarian workers’ safety and security.
WFP’s ICT Emergency Preparedness and Response programme-funded by a partnership between the Vodafone Group Foundation and the United Nations Foundation-is producing three core outcomes: an emergency communications deployment guide, a software application and a cadre of ICT leaders trained to operate in grave security conditions. It aims to double the number of ICT managers trained and on standby for deployment to the next disaster. These include staff from UN agencies, non-governmental organisations, and government stand-by partners.
"Effective communication is critical in enabling humanitarian assistance when disaster strikes. Our aim is to provide training and technology to ensure aid workers can deliver effective humanitarian relief as quickly and efficiently as possible irrespective of the environment they have to work in," said Andrew Dunnett, Director of The Vodafone Group Foundation.
“We learned from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that a dollar spent in preparation for disaster goes much further than a dollar donated after the disaster,” said Paul Margie, Senior Director of Technology Partnerships at the UN Foundation. “The goal of this unique public-private partnership is to strengthen emergency response missions by creating greater technology coordination, faster response times, and more lives saved,” he said.
Twenty-one ICT experts participated in the programme, bringing combined emergency response experience that includes dozens of recent crises such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 South Asian earthquake, the 2006 war in Lebanon, and the ongoing crisis in Sudan. The two-week course was held from 19-30 March at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, among the most prestigious universities in Italy, which specializes in humanitarian training programmes.