TSF satellite connections support NGOs in the Sahel region

from Télécoms Sans Frontières
Published on 14 Aug 2012 View Original

August 14th, 2012

On July 19th, TSF installed a satellite connection in the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Djibo camp to reinforce its humanitarian activities and those of all the NGOs in the area (Oxfam, Médecins du Monde…). The refugee camp of Djibo is located 167 km west from Gorom-Gorom. More than 12,000 people are living there. Since its installation, the humanitarian workers have exchanged 9 GB of data.

Given the extremely complex geographic and security context in the Sahel region, TSF is using both fixed and mobile satellite equipment to connect its humanitarian Hubs and the teams during their trips.

TSF is reinforcing its presence in the Sahel region with a total of three mobile communication centres and six permanent telecom centres, for the benefit of NGOs and United Nations Agencies who have been fighting for several months against food and security crises affecting more than 18 million people.


On July 11th 2012, Télécoms Sans Frontières opened an Internet centre in northern Burkina Faso, in Gorom-Gorom, in the offices of Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Belgium (VSF-B), to enhance the communication of NGOs and United Nations agencies in the area thanks to the installation of a Vsat satellite antenna. Since its installation, the humanitarian workers have exchanged 8 GB of data.

North of Gorom-Gorom, more than 65,000 refugees, 60% of who are children, are living in camps that are very hard to reach. In this region, situated a few kilometers from the Mali border, the mobile network is operational but Internet access is only possible through Edge network or 3G keys, thus the connection is very slow and not reliable at all. Thanks to TSF’s humanitarian Hub, the different humanitarian organisations will be able to coordinate and share information more efficiently to reinforce their response toward refugees.

TSF also supplied VSF-B with a Bgan connection to ensure the communication with the teams and the transmission of crucial data during missions in isolated areas.


In Niger, Action Against Hunger Spain (ACF-E) asked for the support of TSF in its activities in the area of Tillia, Tahoua region. The access to this area is very dangerous and the security of humanitarian workers is a major challenge. Following constant arrivals of Malian refugees, ACF-E and its different partners want to settle in the district to monitor the evolution of the situation for displaced people.

TSF provided ACF-E with a Bgan connection and a Wifi router, and conducted a training session in the use of the equipment supplied. TSF’s satellite connections will enable the whole community to rapidly assess the situation and transmit vital data needed to carry out emergency programs to combat malnutrition and food insecurity.


For 3 months, the satellite connections installed by TSF in the Sahel region have been supporting the actions of humanitarian workers deployed to areas often difficult to access, where insecurity is a permanent challenge negatively affecting the humanitarian response toward people suffering from conflict and drought.

Abala Malian refugee camp, north Filingué region:

Mid-January 2012, the uprising of an armed conflict between rebels and the Malian State resulted in a massive population displacement towards bordering countries, notably Niger. Conflict in Mali has forced at least 372,000 people to flee their homes.

The Vsat satellite antenna installed by TSF on April 24th in ACTED and UNHCR offices provides secure Wifi connection for the whole of the humanitarian community on site (MSF Suisse, MSF France, CARE International, Islamic Relief, CADEV, HELP, VSF Belgium, ACTED and UNHCR). In this camp, hosting 11,000 refugees, there is no or few GSM network, which is very low and most of the time unavailable. the connection optimizes the immediate relief operations as well as the longer term management of the camps. Since its installation, the humanitarian workers have exchanged 35 GB of data.

Story: Camp Manager Assistant/ACTED: With the problem encountered on the local network, without TSF it would have been impossible to communicate our reports with the office in Niamey and the partners. Thanks to the action of TSF, the constant communication is ensured, as well as the quality of the coordination.

In June, an ACTED team went to Mali to assess the humanitarian situation, equipped with an IsatPhone Pro provided by TSFto ensure the communication in the field. In this country where security is a daily challenge, efficient telecom solutions can reduce the impact of the crisis on people’s lives by reinforcing the coordination capacities of humanitarian actors and allowing a better dissemination of field information. 143 minutes of communication have been used to transmit situation reports to ACTED headquarters.

North Dakoro region:

On June 5th 2012, TSF provided Bgan and IsatPhone Pro connections to VSF Belgium, whose teams operate in isolated areas where drought and starvation are affecting many people.

TSF satellite connections allow the humanitarian workers to notably exchange reports and statistical data on the food situation (e.g. livestock monitoring). The satellite phone enabled VSF-B to make 737 minutes of priority calls.

Banibangou, north Ouallam region:

On June 13th 2012, TSF installed a Vsat satellite antenna in CARE International offices, supporting the actions of MSF Suisse and other NGOs who are addressing the food and security crises affecting 9 countries in the Sahel region, including Niger and Burkina Faso. Since its installation, the humanitarian workers have exchanged 8 GB of data. The centre is notably used by the NGOs ACTED, Vétérinaires Sans Frontières, Oxfam/Karkara, the city hall and the prefecture.

Community telecom centres in Dakoro and Abalak, Maradi and Tahoua regions:

The two community centres, inaugurated in 2007 and 2010 respectively, created by TSF in Niger contribute to bridging the digital divide for vulnerable populations by providing the local community with constant Internet access. Since the beginning of armed conflict in Mali, several Malian refugees in Niger have reached the community centres to rebuild family links and ask for personalised assistance.

Story: Coordinator of the TSF centre in Abalak: There are also displaced people from Libya, Mali and the Ivory Coast in the area, all of them use the centre for their communication (seek for support of help).

TSF is remaining mobilised in the Sahel region to aid the vulnerable populations. The arrival of the rainy season after these prolonged periods of drought inevitably translate into flood risks and will provoke numerous logistical problems to reach affected people. More than ever communication will be the essential component for a rapid and efficient coordinated response to bring help to the greatest number of people.

Continuing to mobilize at national and international levels in favor of vulnerable populations is essential to enable the bridging of the hunger gap, which runs from the depletion of the prior harvest, to the next crop, in September 2012.