Rebuilding Connections After the Quake

By Myriam Annette, read part 1 of Myriam’s

“Thanks to TSF’s calling operation, I could call my uncle in Venezuela. It was essential to reassure him about my family, to tell him that we all are alive. For me, the most important thing for survival is to keep the family connections, whatever the situation.”

That thank you came from Jean-Pierre Bertry, who used TSF’s free calling service near Boyer square in Petion-ville. Over the past two days, the Telecoms Sans Frontieres team here in Haiti has continued both its humanitarian calling operations for earthquake survivors, and its assistance to UN agencies, NGOs and the Haitian government.

To reconnect families affected by the earthquake, our humanitarian calling teams visited Champ de Mars (the largest camp for internally displaced persons in Port-au-Prince), Phillipo, Sony camp and Girardeau camp. In the last two days, we put 674 families in touch with loved ones. In total, since the earthquake, that makes more than 2,850 families we’ve connected through free, three-minute phone calls.

Since deployment, TSF has covered the devastated districts of Petion-ville, Delmas and Centre-ville. We have seen despair and anxiety begin give way to relief when isolated people are able to use telecommunications to be closer to their families. A phone call can be a psychological and emotional relief as well as a material one. Indeed, TSF calling operations are a great opportunity for the affected populations to ask for financial aid or personalized assistance from their relatives.

Yet the vast majority of the population still has not been able to reach their relatives. In the coming days, we plan to offer humanitarian calling operations deploy teams in the Carrefour and Jacmel areas outside of Port-au-Prince.

TSF also has been busy supporting telecommunications for coordination and rescue centers since the beginning of the relief effort. We have established Internet connections and high-speed satellite lines to UNDAC teams (United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination) with Bgans terminals, and to search and rescue teams like USAR UK, and Defensa civil Española.

UNICEF offices at the MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) camp, the Haitian police headquarters, and even some members of the U.S. army also have received TSF tech support. All in all, each day more than 200 humanitarian organizations are now benefiting from connections and technical services provided by TSF experts. Helping other relief workers stay connected means more effective aid delivery here in Haiti, to areas where help is needed most.

Myriam Annette is communications coordinator for Telecoms Sans Frontieres, an NGO specializing in providing emergency telecommunications services in disasters. Support for TSF is provided by a number of groups including the United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership. UN Dispatch enjoys the support of the UN Foundation. 

Image: Haitians line up to make use of TSF’s free international phone calls that enable many to contact loved ones abroad for the first time after the earthquake.  Credit: TSF.