TSF helps set up response network in Mentawai Islands

Date: Mon, 03/07/2011 - 13:40

Mentawai islanders who survived the tsunamis of 2004 and 2010 have more chance of escaping future disasters thanks to emergency communication kits from Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF)

TSF helps set up response network in Mentawai Islands UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Following delivery of the last of the kits on 27 January, the four Mentawai Islands off the coast of Sumatra are now covered by an emergency response network run by local relief agencies.
Between them the eight agencies share two large emergency kits containing an Inmarsat BGAN terminal, an IsatPhone Pro global handheld satphone, printer and fax machine.

Quick and reliable
Another 24 small emergency kits were donated, each containing an IsatPhone Pro.
TSF staff have trained agency field workers so they are able to establish quick and reliable internet connections during a crisis, as well as set up phone and fax lines and trouble-shoot equipment faults.
"In every humanitarian crisis, in addition to medical and food aid, there is a critical need for reliable telecommunications services for civilians and relief workers," said TSF spokesperson Myriam Annette.

Mini crisis centres
"Our objective has been to build a network of humanitarian professionals trained in emergency telecoms who are able to set up mini crisis centres and co-ordinate their efforts to improve their response.
"Any improvement to the communication system will have a direct impact on saving lives and providing timely assistance during future disasters."
The BGAN emergency kits were first used in the Philippines following typhoons Ketsana and Parma at the end of 2009 and early 2010.

Charities in Haiti
More recently they have been given to charities in Haiti, each time funded by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department (Echo).
TSF provided immediate disaster relief when a devastating tsunami struck the four Mentawai Islands - Siberut, Sipora, Pagai Utara and Pagai Seletan - on 25 October 2010.
A 3-metre (9-ft) wave swept inland hitting 20 villages, displacing more than 20,000 people and causing widespread destruction.

Efforts hampered
Four hundred and thirty five people are known to have died and another 100 are believed to have been swept out to sea.
The subsequent relief effort was hampered by bad weather and the island group's remoteness.
Landline and mobile services are only available in major towns on each island and not the hard-to-access areas where the majority of the people live.

Rescue teams
During the initial response TSF deployed BGAN broadband connectivity at the government's co-ordination centre in the Pagai islands' capital Sikakap, provided satellite lines to three search and rescue teams, and a free phone service so victims could contact their relatives.

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