Massive flooding in the wake of Cyclone Idai has caused a humanitarian disaster in Mozambique and neighboring Zimbabwe and Malawi, killing hundreds of people and displacing thousands in one of Southern Africa’s worst weather-related disasters in recent times.
At least 1.7 million people were in the direct path of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique and 920,000 have been affected in Malawi, according to the United Nations.
Several aid agencies are helping governments perform search and rescue operations and distribute food aid. But many aid trucks are stuck on impassable roads. The conditions have also hampered air operations and wiped out power and telecommunications in many areas.
ITU staff are now helping to deploy critical equipment to countries hit by Cyclone Idai. ITU sent 30 satellite phones from Iridium Satellite Communications to Mozambique and is in the process of sending 20 satellite phones to Zimbabwe.
When established terrestrial communications systems have been affected by disasters, satellite phones can operate and are a key part of emergency telecommunications. They play a crucial role in the immediate aftermath of disasters by ensuring the timely flow of vital information, allowing for the effective coordination of humanitarian response efforts.
“The equipment deployed by ITU will enable vital links to coordinate relief and rescue efforts,” says Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, which coordinates ITU’s emergency telecommunications activities. “ITU is committed to ongoing support during emergencies. When disaster strikes, there is no time to think about what to do and how organize our work. That’s why we are prepared and ready to take action at tragic times like this.”
“The equipment deployed by ITU will enable vital links to coordinate relief and rescue efforts”–Doreen Bogdan-Martin
ITU supports the humanitarian community before disasters strike by incorporating ICTs into disaster risk reduction measures; during disasters by supporting timely deployment of emergency telecommunications to affected areas; and in the immediate aftermath of disasters by supporting telecommunication network rehabilitation as part of the recovery effort.
ITU is also part of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), a global network of organizations that work together to provide shared communications services in humanitarian emergencies.
ITU is currently working with the ETC to map the ICT needs of the humanitarian partners operating in the affected areas of Southern Africa in the wake of Cyclone Idai.
At ITU’s recent Global Emergency Telecommunications Forum (GET-19) in Mauritius, ITU, together with some key partners from the ETC, presented a disaster connectivity map initiative. This initiative will work with many stakeholders, including mobile network operators, social media and Internet companies, to provide or enhance near real-time connectivity information when disasters strike.
“Together with its partners, and especially with the ETC, ITU is committed to moving this disaster connectivity initiative forward,” said Ms. Bogdan-Martin.
At GET-19, ITU also presented global guidelines on National Emergency Telecommunications Plans to assist national authorities and policy-makers in developing plans for the effective and efficient use of technologies for all phases of disaster management.