Kaikor village is cruelly lacking in communication networks
A few months ago, the Horn of Africa was hit by one of the most severe droughts in its history, after two seasons without any rain, causing shortage in agricultural outputs and massive loss of livestock. A state of famine was declared by the United Nations Organisation, and the humanitarian organisms, threatening the lives of 13 million people.
TSF deployment in Kaikor (Kenya), South Sudan border
Within a radius of 15 kilometers around Kaikor village, 15,000 people were directly affected by the 2011 drought. 50 aid workers and local organisations are helping these vulnerable populations, including: the Kenyan Red Cross, Oxfam, Merlin, the AMREF Flying doctors, WFP… These organisations conduct several programmes in the area, mostly with the 1,200 pupils of the sole primary school in an 80km radius.
Yet, Kaikor village is cruelly lacking in communication networks, which amount to one HF radio. There is no phone and no Internet in the area, so no communication means are available in case of emergency.
The region of Kaikor, mostly housing cattle producers, is regularly hit by drought. These territories show signs of delayed development compared with the southern part of the country. Recent weather events stopped water sources’ replenishment and pasture re-growth, threatening food security restoration among pastoralists. The drought has had heavy consequences on these poor regions of Kenya, notably on the food and fuel prices, and resulted in a rise in interethnic conflicts.
Humanitarian workers in this area need to communicate rapidly to be more efficient. The isolated communities also need to connect with their families and friends, and with the town and villages of the country as well, to maintain commercial activities. An M-PESA facility (for more info see TSF M-PESA article) was set up next to the village. This mobile payment system remains closed due to the lack of network.
Télécoms Sans Frontières in the field
In addition to its deployment to Dadaab refugee camp in August 2011 (see TSF Kenya article) and its current M-PESA mission in the Marsabit South district (see TSF M-PESA article), it is within the framework of the same food crisis response programme that TSF deployed on the Kenyan border with South Sudan, following a request from the Kenya Red Cross. Reliable communication means are crucial for the NGOs working in the region, as the inhabitants mainly depend on international aid to survive. There was no mobile network in the village of Kaikor before Instant Network deployment.
The Instant Network is a GSM mobile network allowing the provision of emergency telecom services to affected populations and relief teams in crisis situations.
The Instant Network has been created to be easily transportable so that it can be taken anywhere in the world, on the first flight available, and provide a fully operative GSM network in a matter of hours.
From 13th to 15th February 2012, in Nairobi
Emergency telecom training
TSF conducted training in emergency telecommunications before the deployment of the solution. The NGOs working in the area of Kaikor (Kenya Red Cross and the NGO Save the children UK) as well as staff of the local operator Safaricom were trained in the use of emergency ICTs (satellite phones, Bgans, GPS) and acquired basic networking skills.
The objective is to bring a practical solution to the lack of proper communication structures in isolated areas. ICTs help to preserve isolated communities by giving them the means to respond quickly to a crisis situation.
From 16th to 21st February 2012, in Kaikor
Mobile network with satellite backhaul
TSF installed a Vsat satellite antenna, providing the necessary backhaul to link Instant Network with local operator mobile network. The GSM network created covers a perimeter of approximately 2.5km, which can be used by the population from Kaikor (around 15,000 people).
From 22nd February 2012, in Kaikor
Humanitarian calling operation
TSF has been conducting, in partnership with Kenya Red Cross, a humanitarian calling operation in Kaikor, for the benefit of the inhabitants and NGOs.
For this operation, TSF provided 5 sim cards covering 2 hours of communication per phone per day, or 10 hours per day. TSF will thus offer the equivalent of 450 hours of communication for local populations, over the 45 days of the operation. Two Kenya Red Cross Volunteers trained and remunerated by TSF will continue to offer free national and international calls to the inhabitants of the area until 7th April 2012.
On March 8th, TSF had already offered 1,367 calls, representing a total of 2,691 minutes of communication.
TSF also provided 20 sim cards to the NGOs (Oxfam, Red Cross, AMREF, Merlin, Christian Mission) and local authorities (the Chief of the village, the Chief’s Assistant, the Chief of Police, the Representative of the youths, the Women’s Representative, the Counsellor, hospital, etc.) On each sim card, there are 200 minutes and 200 SMS.
Being involved in the project, Safaricom is committed to installing a permanent GSM solution before 1st April. Once installed, it will cover a perimeter of up to 100km.
As soon as the Instant Network was set up, the TSF team was able to gauge its importance: the nurse in charge of Kaikor hospital was able to make an emergency call to an ambulance from the hospital. This call, made 6 hours after deployment, is proof of the increased reactivity of health systems in Kaikor thanks to the implementation of new communication technologies.
The GSM network now enhances living conditions of the inhabitants of Kaikor and increases the response capacity in case of future crises. ICTs actively contribute to the development of isolated communities.
Télécoms Sans Frontières and the Kenya Red Cross are considering extending their partnership, in emergency as well as within the framework of longer term projects.
Access to communication is a universal right. Télécoms Sans Frontières helps the most vulnerable populations connect to the rest of the world.
*K4K: When the drought hit Kenya in 2011, ordinary farmers and Kenyans pooled their efforts to raise funds via the M-PESA system in order to help people affected by the famine within the framework of a campaign called Kenyans4Kenya.