When connectivity saves lives

TSF_Vanuatu_2015Celebrating over 15 years of humanitarian partnership with Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF), we’re proud to continue our support of the NGO emergency telecommunications agency.

Since 2000, Inmarsat has provided satellite communications for TSF missions in over 70 countries in the aftermath of some of the most devastating natural disasters and harrowing conflicts.

Beyond reconnecting families, our support enables TSF to improve emergency response, coordinate healthcare, repatriate victims and distribute life-saving supplies, including shelter and medication.

“Safety is at the heart of what we do at Inmarsat, which is why we’re honoured to be able to support TSF with vital connectivity – putting people in touch with loved ones and enabling critical emergency response to be coordinated in times of a disaster,” said Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce.

“When people’s lives are in danger it quickly becomes apparent how crucial the ability to communicate is. TSF can be assured that wherever and whenever they need connectivity, they can depend upon our reliable, global network for a communications lifeline.”

Communications for life

TSF was established to let disaster victims call loved ones to say they were alive and needed help, but the agency soon found that international emergency response teams also had a critical need for rapidly-deployable, reliable communications services.

Today, TSF is the principal communications provider to the United Nations in disaster situations, and also supports the European Commission and non-governmental relief agencies.

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Working out of regional bases in France, Thailand, Nicaragua, Mexico and the United States, expert teams are ready to be deployed with kit including BGAN terminals and IsatPhone satellite phones wherever and whenever disaster strikes.

“Inmarsat’s commitment, as well as its equipment and technology, is essential for our work – it allows us to arrive in the field and set up the latest in satellite communications technology in the first hours following a disaster, when the most lives can be saved,” says TSF President and co-founder Jean-François Cazenave.

Disaster response

In the event of natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes, TSF is among the first to arrive at the scene, setting up satellite voice and data communication links so international and local agencies can co-ordinate critical rescue operations.

When Typhoon Hagupit struck the Philippines in December 2014, triggering floods and landslides that destroyed towns across Eastern Samar, TSF was pre-warned and ready to deploy.

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Working directly with the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team, TSF reconnected three of the worst-hit towns – home to nearly 150,000 people – to the internet via BGAN, enabling situational reports to be shared and effective, targeted aid operations to be put into action.

After 150mph Tropical Cyclone Pam roared across the Vanuatu island nation in the South Pacific Ocean in March 2015, TSF was there supporting relief efforts for the 65,000 people left without shelter, food or fresh water. And in April 2016, the communications experts deployed to Ecuador following the country’s strongest earthquake in 40 years, which affected over 100,000 people.

Calling operations

CallingOperations_Nepal“A simple satellite phone represents a tremendous lifeline to the survivors of natural disasters in some of the world’s most remote areas. When our beneficiaries are handed Inmarsat’s IsatPhone you notice a smile come across their face as you are offering them a chance that they could never have imagined,” say TSF’s Alexander James Thomas.

TSF’s humanitarian calling operations were in great demand following the devastating earthquakes in Nepal in April and May 2015.

As well as setting up communications for international search and rescue teams, TSF was also responsible for putting over 7,430 Nepalese in touch with loved ones around the world.

With the two earthquakes claiming 9,000 lives and affecting 2.8 million of the population, family and friends of people in the disaster zone were left desperate for news. By travelling to remote villages armed with IsatPhone satellite phones, TSF provided a free communications lifeline.

Post-emergency support

Three months after the earthquakes, TSF was still at work in Nepal, providing an essential post-emergency mHealth service with Médecins du Monde.

Medics travelled to remote communities to perform health checks, then transmitted data on their smartphones via BGAN. This allowed disease outbreaks to be detected early so intervention and treatment plans could be put in place.

On the Thai/Burmese border, TSF has helped over 25,000 refugees to receive essential medical care.

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An NGO-run camp hospital now has a BGAN internet connection to support operations and help health workers treat people arriving in camps after fleeing armed conflict and persecution in Myanmar.

eLearning opportunities

eLearning_IraqIn Iraq, in addition to supporting relief efforts for 500,000 internally displaced people with satellite connectivity, TSF has been providing educational opportunities for children growing up in camps.

The mLearning camps allow children to use tablets with content covering core subjects, downloaded via Inmarsat’s satellite connectivity. Disasters and conflict can isolate children from learning for long periods of time, compromising their future and impacting an entire country’s ability to recover; providing access to education, a basic human right, is therefore critical.

Emergency preparedness

TSF runs programmes for disaster preparedness on three continents, training NGOs and regional and national disaster response agencies in using telecommunications.

It also helps countries to reinforce disaster response systems by supplying emergency telecom kits to local relief organisations and running regular disaster simulation exercises.

Disaster lifecycle

Find out more about how Inmarsat supports the aid and NGO sector throughout the whole lifecycle of a disaster, from emergency preparedness and first response to reconstruction and sustainable development:www.inmarsat.com/enterprise/aid-and-ngo

Crisis Connectivity Charter

In October 2015, Inmarsat, along with world-leading satellite operators under the umbrella of the EMEA Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) and the Global VSAT Forum (GVF), signed a Crisis Communications Charter at the World Humanitarian Summit Global Consultation in Geneva.The signing, which took place with the United Nations (UN) Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) and the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), signalled Inmarsat’s commitment to enhancing connectivity in humanitarian emergencies – recognising the critical role of communications in the wake of a disaster.

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