Telecoms Charity Connects Haiti Victims With Relatives

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Charity TSF says it is using satellite phones to connect thousands of victims of the Haitian earthquake with relatives abroad

Telecoms Sans Frontieres (TSF) has given an update on its aid-work in Haiti which includes setting up a telecoms networks to allow local residents to contact relatives abroad.

Since deploying to Haiti soon after the earthquake hit on the 12 January, TSF has been focused on helping other aid agencies communicate and coordinate with one another, while also establishing a phone network for Haitian citizens.

“Beyond high-speed satellite equipment, TSF are providing a vital ITC support to the whole humanitarian community and go along with their operations, ready to deploy any technical assistance,” the organisation said.

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TSF said since 16th January more than 11,000 local families have been provided with free calls to relatives using satellite phones. “A great part of the population had not been able to reach their relatives before TSF service,” the organisation said. “Despair and anxiety are replaced by a huge relief. This can be a psychological and emotional relief as well as a material one. Indeed, TSF calling operations are often referred to as a great opportunity for the affected populations to ask for financial aid or personalised assistance to their relatives.”

Haiti was hit by the effects of an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter Scale on Tuesday, 12th January. Although the epicentre of the quake was off the coast of the island nation, it was still only 17km from the capital Port-au-Prince. After-shocks measuring between 5.9 and 5.5 have also hit and experts have said that an earthquake on this scale has not been recorded in the region for 250 years.

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) scheme is working with several other tech companies to dispatch communication equipment to help aid efforts in Haiti. Mobile service provider Digicel has also announced that it is proving around $10 million (£6.3m) of free call credit to customers in Haiti.

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TSF has deployed a 3-man team from its Latin American base in Managua, Nicaragua equipped with satellite mobile and fixed telecoms tools, including Inmarsat BGAN or R-BGAN terminals.

TSF was set up in 1998 by former France Telecom employee Jean-Francois Cazenove and has deployed to numerous natural disasters and war-zones around the world in that time, as well as establishing longer-term communications projects.


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