Pacific islands in crisis: Calling in support

By Adele Waugaman

This week has seen a devastating series of events in the Pacific.

Over the weekend a deadly tropical storm slammed into the Philippines, causing severe flooding in urban areas and affecting tens of thousands.

Tuesday, a powerful underwater earthquake triggered a tsunami with waves 15 to 20 feet high that crashed into the Samoa islands, destroying homes and taking lives.

Then yesterday and today two successive and devastating earthquakes struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra, leaving thousands buried in rubble and in desperate need of aid.  

Groups funded by the UN Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership are deployed in all three Pacific Ocean emergencies to provide vital communications services that enable relief workers to deliver food aid and emergency supplies.

As we reported yesterday, both the World Food Program (WFP) and the non-profit Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) are in the Philippines ensuring that relief workers are connected and, on WFP’s part, have access to radio communications to ensure workers’ security.

Tropical storm Ketsana dumped the heaviest rains in more than 40 years, and has affected 2.5 million people, according to government estimates. The WFP has boosted its food aid relief program there and now aims to feed 1 million people in October.

TSF also deployed to Samoa, where after Tuesday’s tsunami entire towns have been wiped out, over one hundred are dead and many thousands more are now homeless.

TSF added to its roster of simultaneous deployments today when it announced it would also deploy to the Indonesian island of Sumatra to provide communications for aid workers and to conduct a “humanitarian calling operation,” providing free three-minute phone calls so that those affected can give news to their family and ask for personalized assistance.

In situations of crisis such as these, a phone line can be a lifeline essential to delivering relief or reconnecting a family. Our thoughts are with all those whose lives have been affected by this deadly string of disasters, and with the relief workers working in difficult conditions to help save lives.

* UN Dispatch is supported by the UN Foundation. You can view a list of disaster deployments supported by the UN Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership here.

[Photo  Credit: Télécoms Sans Frontières]