End of the TSF mission in the Philippines

Report
from Télécoms Sans Frontières
Published on 25 Jan 2013 View Original

Typhoon Bopha that has struck the islands of Mindanao on December 4th has caused more than 778,000 displaced, 1,500 dead and 890 missing people across the country. In all there are more than 5.5 million people affected by the disaster.

TSF experts deployed from their regional base of Bangkok, on the AIT campus, were prepositioned in Manila since 2nd December so as to coordinate with local authorities and response entities in anticipation of the cyclone. In the first day of the disaster, TSF experts has been assessing the damages of telecommunications infrastructure in the most affected municipalities of Davao Oriental in collaboration with the Red Cross, OCHA, UNICEF, UNDAC teams and Regional Government Units.

During the following weeks, TSF has been providing satellite data connections via Bgan to local government units (Civil defense, army) and relief workers (ICRC, Department of Health, hospital staff), in addition to humanitarian calling operations for the benefit of hundreds of families.

The TSF teams have been working beside refugee families in various evacuation camps of Cateel, Baganga, Boston and Monkayo, and have been carrying out humanitarian calling operations. Hundreds of families have been able to contact their loved ones and inform them of their situation.

At the beginning of January 2013, our team, still supporting rescue operations on the ground during Christmas, set up three emergency telecom centres in Cateel, Baganga and Boston thanks to several Vsat satellite data connections offering humanitarian workers a broadband Internet connection necessary to coordinate their actions on the ground. The TSF telecom centre of Cateel is the Regional Coordination Centre for all the NGOs, United Nations agencies and local authorities in the area (DOH, WFP, OCHA, ICRC...). Meanwhile, TSF was supporting the actions of Nethope (consortium of international NGOs) in the Philippines by providing its Rapid Technology Assessment Teams with Bgan satellite data connections. This TSF equipment enabled Nethope workers to benefit from efficient and reliable communication means when operating in areas with no telecommunication networks.

Following the progressive restauration of telecom networks, the satellite connection of Baganga centre was stopped on January 20th. The one of Boston was stopped on the 26th of January and the one of Cateel inter NGO centre was transfered to the OCHA teams.

This mission notably marked the deployment of Instant Network technology for the first time in an emergency situation. Thanks to the satellite connection established by TSF, the solution allowed to create a mobile network for relief workers and populations, while the telecom infrastructures of local operators were out of order. The Instant Network was operational for 17 days until normal services were restored – during that time it enabled an impressive 300,000 calls and nearly 600,000 SMS messages.

The Philippines being regularly hit by violent typhoons, TSF conducted in 2011 a capacity building program in emergency telecommunications for the benefit of the National Disaster, Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). On this occasion, several emergency telecom kits had been provided by TSF.