Since Haiti was struck by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on 14 August, the Global ETC has been coordinating with its partners to respond to the ICT needs for the response through its support for the national Emergency Telecommunications sector. The ETS coordinator will complete his mission on 7 October and transition ETS coordination back to the WFP-led local ICT working group.
Throughout the Haiti earthquake response, the Global ETC has coordinated with its partners and the ICT responders on the ground to support the IT and telecommunications needs of government and humanitarian response operations.
International ICT responders deployed to Haiti quickly following the earthquake and provided data connectivity and telecommunications services to support national and departmental Haitian Civil Protection Units as well as the interagency needs of humanitarian responders.
The ETS established a radio network for security communications in Les Cayes and Jeremie with the installation of two VHF repeaters. The work was carried out in a collaborative effort between WFP, UNDSS, emergency.lu and Ericsson Response.
Situation Overview and Needs Assessment
At 08:30AM local time on 14 August, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck southern Haiti, heavily impacting areas in the department of Les Nippes. In the Flash Appeal launched on 25 August, OCHA estimated that 650,000 people were in need of emergency humanitarian assistance, requiring USD 187.3 million to fund the response.
While the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster was not activated, support was provided to the Government of Haiti and the humanitarian response to the earthquake through the national Emergency Telecommunications Sector (ETS). The ETS submitted a response plan and funding requirements in the Flash Appeal.
Access to the affected areas was difficult throughout the response due to infrastructural damages as well as the security threats posed by non-state armed groups active in the areas along the route from Port-auPrince to Les Cayes. Travel along this route was only possible through convoys organised by the logistics sector under armed police escort. WFP also provided a barge service and UNHAS helicopter flights to support humanitarian operations.
The impact of the earthquake and in the influx of responders to the affected areas led to congestion and issues with patchy coverage by Mobile Network Operators (MNO), and data services in particular were affected. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) supported efforts to map gaps in connectivity with their Disaster Connectivity Map, developed in a joint initiative with the Global ETC with support from the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA). While the data gathered by ITU shows that mobile networks recovered fairly quickly, large parts of the affected areas were already outside of MNO coverage networks before the earthquake.
Internet Service Provider (ISP) services also suffered damages in the earthquake and were under strain in the initial days of the response due to the influx of humanitarians.
While there was an operational UN VHF network the capital, at the time of the earthquake there was no UN radio network for security communications covering the affected areas in southern Haiti. The GSM network and mobile phones were used as the primary security communications tool in the main operational areas. In light of the volatile security situation, the provision of a means for security communications in the affected areas was a key focus of the ETS response.