Global Problems Can be Solved

Rapid Hurricane Response: Haiti

September 18, 2008

Summer 2008 was a tough time for Haiti.  The country, the poorest in the Western hemisphere, was already suffering from the global food crisis. In August and September 2008, three consecutive hurricanes – Gustav, Hanna and Ike – devastated the island nation.

The storms killed hundreds, displaced thousands, and destroyed vital crops.  Up to 80 percent of densely populated areas like the northern city of Gonaïves were flooded. In some places water levels reached over 9 feet (3 meters), leaving hospitals unusable and schools closed.

With access to food and clean drinking water compromised throughout Haiti, a fast, effective and continuing relief effort was paramount.

Once again, the UN Foundation’s Technology Program supported the use of mobile technology to help reconnect families, aid workers and emergency response missions during this crisis. Emergency telecommunications officers from both the UN World Food Programme (WFP)—the UN’s food relief agency—and the non-governmental organization Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) deployed immediately to support the ongoing relief effort.

The successive storms had severely damaged Haiti’s communications infrastructure, making outside telecommunications support an essential part of the humanitarian assistance mission. TSF and WFP brought in tools like mobile satellite data transmitters to power phone, fax and data lines, enabling relief workers to communicate with one another and back to their headquarters about the situation and needs on the ground.

In addition, TSF’s telecoms specialists offered humanitarian calling operations, reconnecting affected families with loved ones through free, 3-minute phone calls.

Click here to listen to an audio podcast by WFP’s Mark Phillips as he describes the work that is being done on the ground. 

Watch scenes from the Haiti deployment in the video below: