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New initiative to provide immediate communications for emergency UN missions

UN News

October 4, 2006

United Nations emergency response missions around the world will have access to the latest telecommunications technology within 48 hours of a disaster anywhere on Earth under a five-year public-private partnership announced today.

"Rapid communications saves lives," UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said of the initiative announced by the UN Foundation and the Vodafone Group Foundation (VGF). "There is an urgent need for food, water, shelter, protection and medical help in emergencies. None of these things are possible without quick and reliable communications."

Under the plan the Foundation and VGF will provide some $2 million over five years to Telecoms Sans Frontieres (TSF), a non-governmental organization (NGO) equipped to deploy rapid response telecom teams within 48 hours of a disaster anywhere in the world in coordination with UNICEF and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"As demonstrated recently in Suriname and Indonesia, this programme will provide reliable telecom services so responders can more effectively do their jobs and save lives in the first days of an emergency," UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland said. "This is the kind of successful public-private partnership we need as we confront increasingly challenging emergencies around the world."

Through the Rapid Response Communications Centre, up to four TSF teams will deploy with the UN to natural disasters and humanitarian crises anywhere in the world.

These teams will be among the first to drop into emergency areas and will rapidly establish emergency telecommunication centres that provide UN, NGO and government responders with reliable voice, Internet, fax, and video connections using satellite, WiFi, and GSM equipment. Relief workers rely on these centres for response and relief assessment, logistics, and coordination.

"Vodafone is committed to changing lives in communities across the world," VGF Director Andrew Dunnett said. "We look forward to its transforming effect and the tangible benefits it will bring to some of the most needy and desperate situations on earth".

UN Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth highlighted the plan as a perfect example of how the Foundation can foster public-private partnerships. "This initiative offers the UN the ability to respond quickly to humanitarian needs in a smart, cost-effective way," he said.

TSF President Jean-Francois Cazenave stressed how new technologies, miniaturization of components and the increasing development of satellite networks enable highly mobile teams to respond to emergency communication needs "in all circumstances, anywhere in the world."

Teams funded by the Foundation and VGF have already deployed four times to assist the UN this year: in May after torrential flooding in Suriname, in June after a massive earthquake in Indonesia and twice in August, to support the UN humanitarian mission in Lebanon and to re-establish telecom services in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Foundation was created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner's historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes and activities. It builds and implements public-private partnerships to address the world's most pressing problems, and also works to broaden support for the UN through advocacy and public outreach.

VGF was created by Vodafone in 2001 to support charitable and community work by all Vodafone companies and their foundations, as well as funding selected charitable global initiatives directly.

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