17 March 2008 The lead United Nations agency for information and communication technology (ICT) is deploying satellite phones and terminals to help restore vital communication links in Zambia, where some 400,000 people have been affected by severe flooding.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is providing both Thuraya hand-held satellite phones, which provide accurate positioning coordinates to aid relief efforts, as well as Inmarsat Global Area Network (GAN) terminals.
The mobile terminals, used mainly for voice communications and sometimes for high-speed data, are easy to transport by road and air to the affected areas, thereby facilitating the coordination of relief efforts by the Government and aid agencies. All transportation and usage expenses are being covered by the agency.
As many as 36,000 Zambians have been displaced, and nearly 3,500 homes and 44 schools have collapsed due to the heavy rainfall, which has also devastated crop harvests.
Zambia is one of a handful of southern African countries to have been hard hit by flooding this season, along with Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Last week, the aid agencies appealed for nearly $89 million to help hundreds of thousands of people in flood-hit parts of those countries.
Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau noted that “cases such as this re-affirm the importance of disaster communications and underscore the need for the recently launched ITU Framework for Cooperation in Emergencies (IFCE) aimed at saving lives through the timely delivery of telecommunications resources to disaster-affected areas.”
The life-saving role of emergency telecommunications in rescue operations, medical assistance and recovery was the focus of an ITU-hosted forum in Geneva last December, at which several key initiatives were launched relating to the timely deployment of emergency before, during and after disasters strike.
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