Ugandan flood victims receive vital communication tools from UN agency

The United Nations telecommunications agency has deployed 25 satellite terminals to help restore vital communication links in the aftermath of severe floods that have affected the eastern and northern regions of Uganda since August. The Government was forced to declare a state of emergency after torrential rains and flash floods swept through the country taking lives, stranding hundreds of thousands of people, destroying road and communication links, and submerging crops. The mobile satellite terminals, provided by the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU), will help in restoring communication links and facilitating relief efforts in the affected areas. “There is no doubt that communication links are essential to ensure a more effective and coordinated relief effort,” Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, stated. ITU is providing both Thuraya hand-held satellite phones and Inmarsat Global Area Network (GAN) terminals, which are mainly used for voice communications and, in some cases, can be used for high-speed data. ITU pays for all expenses, including transportation of the equipment and usage. “Telecommunications can save lives when natural disasters strike,” Cosmas Zavazava, Head of ITU’s Division for Emergency Telecommunications, said, pointing out that this is not the first time the agency has deployed emergency communications devices in disaster zones. The ITU has provided telecommunications resources for disaster mitigation following an earthquake in Peru in August and severe floods in Bangladesh in September. “It is clear that we are making a difference on the ground,” Mr. Zavazava said. Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a food airdrop operation as part of a massive effort to reach about 10,000 displaced people in two camps after heavy rains blocked the delivery of relief food by road. “Resorting to food airdrops reflects the severity of the heavy rains and floods, which in some parts of Uganda are the worst in 35 years,” said WFP Uganda Acting Country Director Alix Loriston. “There is simply no other way to get survival rations to isolated people.” WFP says the situation in Uganda is serious as some 250,000 displaced people living in camps in northern Uganda did not receive September rations from the agency when heavy rains made it impossible for trucks to reach them. Other displaced people have not received food since July because torrential rains cut roads. WFP urgently needs $17 million to buy food for flood victims in addition to $3.2 million to operate trucks, boats and aircraft on behalf of the entire humanitarian community. It is also undertaking emergency road and bridge repairs. So far, WFP has only received one-fifth of its flood appeal made four weeks ago. 16 October 2007The United Nations telecommunications agency has deployed 25 satellite terminals to help restore vital communication links in the aftermath of severe floods that have affected the eastern and northern regions of Uganda since August.

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