RELIEF agency Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) has been training humanitarian aid workers in northern Kenya to use Inmarsat in emergencies.
The training was designed to help non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operate independently in times of crisis, such as the recent famine in Somalia which caused many refugees to seek help in Kenya.
The delegates learned how to use satellite equipment provided by Inmarsat-sponsored TSF, including IsatPhone Pros and BGAN terminals.
The training included theoretical courses and hands-on exercises in how to make voice calls, send SMS messages and handle GPS positioning.
A few months ago the region was hit by one of the most severe droughts in its history.
After two seasons without any rain, there was a general shortage in agricultural output and a massive loss of livestock.
A state of famine affecting the lives of 11.5 million people in Somalia was declared by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in July 2011.
Although the famine was officially declared over in February, OCHA said that around three million people in Somalia remain vulnerable as uncertainty over future harvests and the availability of food and water continues.
In the field, aid workers and local organisations – including the Red Cross, Oxfam, Merlin, the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) flying doctors and World Food Programme – are helping vulnerable communities.
Kenya is lacking in terrestrial networks, so there are few reliable means of communications available in an emergency.
The northern regions of Kenya, mostly housing cattle producers, are particularly vulnerable to drought.
The lack of rain has had heavy consequences on these poor regions of Kenya, notably on the food and fuel prices, and has helped inflame inter-ethnic conflicts.
Humanitarian organisations working in this area need to be in a position to respond quickly and effective in case of food crisis or other disaster, says TSF.