ITU deploys emergency communication equipment in Vanuatu
Date: Tue, 03/31/2015 - 13:43 Source: ITU press department
Damage seen on Saturday 14 March 2015 in Port Vila, capital of Vanuatu, after Cyclone Pam moved through the Archipelago
Photo: UNICEF Pacific
ITU deployed emergency telecommunication equipment to Vanuatu following the devastation caused by Cyclone Pam, a category 5 tropical storm which hit the archipelago on Friday, 13 March.
ITU dispatched 40 satellite phones, 10 Broadband Global Area Network terminals and 35 solar panels to the Island nation to support relief coordination efforts.
“The frequency and intensity of disasters is increasing worldwide with a disproportionate impact on developing countries,” said ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao. “We are working with our partners to increase the capacity of Member States to integrate ICTs in their disaster risk reduction policies. ITU is also encouraging governments, especially those in developing countries, to invest in telecommunication infrastructure that is resilient to disasters.”
“Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam, which hit Vanuatu with devastating force, paralyzed telecommunications and affected rescue and rehabilitation efforts,” said Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. “ITU is committed to assisting Member States restore telecommunication links in the aftermath of natural disasters to facilitate humanitarian response to support the affected populations.”
Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Mr Joe Natuman, thanked ITU for the support, noting that all 83 islands in Vanuatu suffered substantial devastation as a result of Tropical Cyclone Pam.
“ICTs are critical in these hard times,” Mr Natuman said. “As communications are down, the ITU emergency equipment, which we have received and distributed throughout the country, will help us coordinate the relief efforts as well as report the situation in outer islands.”
Cyclone Pam slammed into the Vanuatu archipelago, including its capital Port Vila, on Efate Island. Winds are estimated to have reached 250 Km/h with gusts peaking at around 320 Km/h, causing damage to the infrastructure, impacting services such as electricity and leaving debris across the capital.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 90 per cent of structures have been damaged or destroyed in Efate. More than 2000 people are sheltering in over 25 evacuation centres in Efate, Torba and Penama.
Vanuatu has a population of 267,000 spread over 65 islands. About 47,000 people live in the capital.
ITU recently participated in the Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan. The Union has addressed the importance of linking information and communication technologies to disaster risk reduction.
ITU considers emergency telecommunications an integral part of the post-2015 development agenda.