Nets and Phones to Help Refugees

(by Ingrid Madden, Communications Associate at the UN Foundation)


Many of the world’s gravest refugee crises exist in Africa, where in recent months armed conflict has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a recent surge in violence and instability has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and forced over 60,000 Congolese citizens into refugee camps in neighboring Uganda.

Recognizing this humanitarian crisis, the UN Foundation [the organization that sponsors UN Dispatch] and its programs are working in a number of ways to protect and support those displaced by the infighting.

In response to the immediate health needs of these refugees, living without shelter or adequate medical care, The United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets program has joined forces with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) to provide long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets to cover every sleeping space in camps throughout Uganda and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. By protecting against a deadly mosquito bite, these nets save lives by preventing the spread of malaria – the leading killer of refugees in sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition to protecting the health of these destitute populations, the UN Foundation, through its partnership with the Vodafone Foundation, is also helping to reconnect families separated by the conflict in DRC. The Partnership supported the deployment of a team of telecommunications specialists from the France-based non-profit group Telecoms Sans Frontieres to Uganda to establish ‘humanitarian calling operations.’ In camps without phones or even electricity, the operations provide free 3-minute phone calls for Congolese refugees to contact family and loved ones. The telecommunications team also installed satellite-based Internet connections and offered technical support for humanitarian agencies responding the influx of refugees in need of aid.

Through Nothing But Nets, or through its strategic Technology Partnership, the UN Foundation is broadly supporting the various needs of refugees in Uganda, and not only saving lives, but helping to improve the quality of life for some of the most impoverished people in the world.