TÉLÉCOMS SANS FRONTIÈRES (TSF) has set up a communications centre for aid agencies supporting thousands of refugees fleeing violence in Mali.
The aid agency, sponsored by Inmarsat and distribution partner Vizada, deployed a team to neighbouring Niger in April.
They have provided non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating refugee camps in the West African country with satellite equipment, including BGAN terminals and IsatPhone Pro phones.
Emails and reports
The NGOs, including the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), are using the TSF communications centre in the Abala camp to carry out research on the internet and send emails and reports to their headquarters.
TSF also hopes to set up humanitarian calling operations for the refugees who have been crossing the border into Niger since January, when violent conflict between rebels and the Malian state broke out.
According to OCHA (United Nations' Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs), the fighting forced more than 170,000 Malian people to flee their homes.
No GSM coverage
“In the Abala camp hosting 9,700 refugees, the GSM network coverage is very low and most of the time unavailable,” said TSF spokesman Laure Crampe.
“TSF's satellite equipment optimises the immediate relief operations as well as the longer-term management of the camps. “In this area, where security is a daily challenge and where escorts are advocated for any trip, efficient telecom solutions can reduce the impact of the crisis on people's lives by reinforcing the co-ordination capacities of humanitarian agencies and allowing a better dissemination of field information.”
TSF is now assessing the communication needs of the other two largest camps on the border.