ETC expands data network across Tacloban

Report
from World Food Programme
Published on 18 Nov 2013

One week since Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) crashed into the Philippines and relief efforts continue to expand to provide critical aid to the affected population. Access to affected areas is improving as debris is cleared and roads and bridges repaired. The Government estimates that the super typhoon affected between 10 million and 12.9 million people across nine regions.

Within days of the disaster, the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) was providing basic data connectivity services to the humanitarian community in Tacloban, one of the worst affected areas. “When we came in at the airport we saw that the situation is really bad,” says Gilles Hoffman, emergency.lu technician deployed with the ETC in Tacloban. “Everything is destroyed. You see a lot of dead bodies on the roads. In terms of communication, you see all the communication lines are down. It’s a really, really big disaster.”

The ETC Response Solution, comprising technologies from the World Food Programme (WFP), emergency.lu and Ericsson Response, has since been installed to provide more robust connectivity services.

Within the first two days of installation, over 150 humanitarian workers from more than 20 different organisations had accessed these services. “The main challenges we face in these kinds of situations, especially with the typhoons and the tidal surge that they had here, is the damage to the infrastructure,” says Neil Murphy-Dewar, ETC Team Leader in Tacloban. “In Tacloban the electricity infrastructure was totally destroyed, the mobile phone networks were brought down, the landline telephone networks and the internet services providers all severely damaged. In these emergencies it’s only the satellite and radio communications that we bring in that provide a means to connect with the outside world.”

Microwave links have now been set-up to extend services from Tacloban City Hall, where the ETC Response Solution is set-up, to the stadium where the UN On-Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC) is currently situated. In addition WIDER, a network management solution by Ericsson Response, has been installed to provide more cost effective, reliable and secure connectivity. WIDER requires users to create an account which provides them with free internet access at any location where ETC services are provided.

“Our plans for the next seven to ten days are to increase satellite network coverage not just in Tacloban but in other areas as well,” says Neil. “We have teams in Cebu, Ormoc and Guian. We have other teams doing surveys along the eastern seaboard in neighbouring islands with the possibility of setting up humanitarian hubs. We’re also looking at expanding the radio networks and increasing our coverage to the humanitarian community.”

The ETC is a global network of organisations that work together to provide common communications services in humanitarian emergencies. In close cooperation with partners emergency.lu, Ericsson Response and NetHope, WFP is leading ETC activities in the Philippines with responsibility for coordination, implementation and overall operation support for common ICT services.

To get contact the ETC in the Philippines, email: Philippines.ETC@wfp.org