On September 28, when an earthquake hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, followed by a tsunami in the Palu Bay, the TSF teams did not hesitate for a second. It was imperative to leave as quickly as possible. In less than 24 hours our first ICT experts landed in Jakarta. Their arrival at the most affected areas, by road, took longer, but despite this, TSF was the first international NGO on site. Sébastien Latouille, our head of mission, reports: "This allowed us to quickly set up a connection in time for the coordination of humanitarian aid at the highest level.
Rihanna, 26 years old, is teacher in a primary school of Palu. During the earthquake she was in the jungle close by. She tells us: "The electricity was off due to the earthquake. The whole city was dark. A lot of buildings were destroyed. The people were running and shouting in the street in panic. Parents were looking for their children; children for their parents. It was terrible."
Six months after the beginning of our operations in Boa Vista, TSF opened two Emergency Call Centres (TECCs) in the border town of Pacaraima where many Venezuelans arrive daily. The flow continues to grow with about 500 entries on average each day, and peaks of up to 800 entries.
"We had no choice but the road,” reports Emmanuel Jean, one of our ICT experts present in the field. “We drove for 30 hours to get to the affected area as quickly as possible. We finally arrived in Palu and set up a broadband satellite connection."
TSF teams continue their progression towards Palu and Donggala. They are only a few hours’ drive from these two localities, the most affected by the earthquake and tsunami that hit Sulawesi Island on September 28. The considerable damages on roads and airport infrastructures represent a challenge to the arrival of humanitarians in this area, making relief operations very difficult.
Today Friday, September 28, the Sulawesi Island in Indonesia was shaken by many earthquakes, including one of a magnitude 7.5 and whose epicentre was only 10 km deep. A tsunami hit the island half an hour later.
Only few hours after the disaster stroke, TSF deploys its telecom technicians on site. The teams leave from the international headquarters and the Asia base in Bangkok.
Four days after the devastating typhoon, rescue teams are still searching dozens of missing people. The torrential rains caused massive landslides in the north of Luzon Island.
Telecommunications are essential for coordinating researches and organizing relief operations. Our teams now provide connectivity at two sites.
In Ucab, a village in the municipality of Itogon, a shelter housing 22 families was buried by mud and 54 people are still under the rubble. TSF installed a VSAT connection to allow the hundreds of rescuers and volunteers to coordinate their operations.
Since emergency alerts were issued as the super typhoon hit the north of Luzon Island in the Philippines, our teams have been pre-positioned in Manila on 14th September. They are preparing to intervene in partnership with local telecom operators.
A team is on its way to the town of Bagio, north-west of Luzon, equipped with satellite connections to bring connectivity an evacuation centre as well as rescue teams. A second team is assessing the situation in isolated northern islands and will be ready to intervene if the needs are confirmed.
Julien, one of the beneficiaries of TSF's help tells his story "As we approach September 6th, we are all stressed and hope for a quite cyclone season. A year on, a large number of people are still living in tents or under tarpaulins that serve as their roof. The population holds on and adapts ... " These are Julien’s words, a young entrepreneur, living in the district of Rambaud, on the island of Saint-Martin. He was one of the beneficiaries of TSF’s help but also one of the many victims who greatly helped our teams during their operations.
Julien, un des bénéficiaires de l’aide de TSF raconte
About 1.5 million Venezuelans have left their country recently. TSF present since 6 months in Boa Vista, capital of the Brazilian state of Roraima, located near the border, provides assistance to these vulnerable people by allowing them to contact their relatives, often for the first time since their departure, through the use of an IP (Internet Protocol) telephony solution specially designed by TSF and adapted to contexts of humanitarian crises
The island of Lombok is continuing to experience disruption. The population continues to suffer from major earthquakes, like those that took place last Sunday.
TSF has been deployed since August 7 in Indonesia where very few foreign humanitarian agencies have been present in the field. TSF coordinated its response with the Jakarta based Indonesian NGO Airputih, a long-term partner with whom our teams have collaborated with in recent years on many humanitarian crises in Asia.
TSF offers priority calls to Venezuelan refugees in Brazil in response to the one of the biggest migration crises in South American history.
Tens of thousands of Venezuelans are fleeing the economic and social collapse that has led to runaway inflation (+2,600% in 2017 and an estimated +13,000% in 2018 according to the IMF and deficiency in several major social sectors such as health and education.
In April, Télécoms Sans Frontières launched a new initiative as part of its mLearning programme for Syrian refugee and displaced children.
The technical skills club introduces the basic functions of programming through playful exercises. With Scratch, children learn how to program the actions of a small tiger. Through progressive levels of difficulties, they learn the unique thought processes of programming.
The year 2017 was poignantly marked by numerous humanitarian dramas around the world. From devastating natural disasters to deadly conflicts, Télécoms Sans Frontières has remained mobilised and adapted its response to the specific needs of the affected populations, introducing new and innovative means of providing communications aid.
In recent years, the nature of South-North migration in the Americas has considerably evolved. A growing number of families and unaccompanied minors are fleeing violence, high rates of crime and natural disasters, turning what was previously considered as principally economic migration into a full-scale humanitarian crisis.
"I came to Brazil with my son because the situation is catastrophic Venezuela; there is no more work, no food and no medicine. My mother has cancer but her treatment is no longer available locally, "says Gabriela, a 30-year-old Venezuelan." Every week, my son goes back and forth from Boa Vista to bring medicine and food to the rest of the family in Venezuela. We have no other choice if we want to survive."
"I spoke to him via WhatsApp. He told me that the bombing was so intense that he had stopped counting the number of strikes. Ten minutes later he was dead", an associate from TSF's principal medical partner, the Union of Syrian Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM) testified.
As we begin a new year, there is no lull in the fighting in Syria yet, and civilians remain the first victims of this conflict. NGOs are also facing growing difficulties and restrictions on the ground. Télécoms Sans Frontières is no longer authorised to continue its mLearning program with displaced children from Azaz and Alsalame schools.
Three months after the devastating passage of Hurricane Maria, the means of communication are only partially restored in some parts of the island. In the first 48 hours after the impact, TSF was on-site supporting the national authorities as well as the population throughout the emergency phase by providing satellite lines and Internet connections to the benefit of all civilians and local actors.