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Connecting in the Midst of a Disaster

September 8, 2008

“When you think about humanitarian aid, you probably think about food, water, shelter and medicine. But what about communication?”
— Oisin Walton, Telecoms Sans Frontières

Heavy flooding along Mozambique’s Zambezi River displaced nearly 300,000 Mozambicans from their homes in early 2008. It was the second year that the Zambezi had flooded, and in some places water levels rose so high that resettlement camps that had been established after the prior year’s flooding were forced to resettle once again.

Humanitarian aid workers rushed to the African nation. Oftentimes among the first of the humanitarian groups to arrive at a disaster site is Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF), a UN Foundation-Vodafone Group Foundation technology partner

TSF uses portable technology that allows them to quickly set up emergency communication centers with broadband Internet access, voice communications, and fax lines—basically everything needed to coordinate aid delivery on the ground in the aftermath of floods, tsunamis, hurricanes and civil conflicts.

In the first month in Mozambique, TSF assisted 90 percent of aid agencies, including the World Food Programme and UNICEF, delivering lifesaving aid.

Communication also allowed Mozambicans who were impacted by the floods to call their family members. TSF set up mobile or satellite calling stations where more than 1,000 families were able to call relatives or loved ones and let them know that they were alive or to request further help.

  • View a video of TSF in action in Mozambique.
  • Listen to an audio podcast by TSF’s Oisin Walton.