4th December, 2013
1 month of presence, 5,100 families reconnected, 12 000 minutes of communication, 30+ international NGOs supported,
TSF's 1st cyber centre put in place
Philippines (see map below)
8th November 2013 – Télécoms Sans Frontières deployed on 7th November
Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) – Category 5 typhoon with wind speeds of up to 300 km/h. It is predicted to be the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded history.
The impact of Haiyan has been compared to that of the category 5 Typhoon Mike which hit the Philippines in 1990 causing over 500 deaths and destroying almost 250,000 homes. The disaster has called for great humanitarian aid due to the 4.1 million people it could potentially affect in the areas of Visayas and Leyte. It is for this reason that Télécoms Sans Frontières’ Bangkok based team as well as backup from its international headquarters in Europe, made way for the Philippines yesterday (07/11/13) before the typhoon struck. The typhoon risks further destroying certain areas of the Philippines which have already been weakened by 2 typhoons and the earthquake that the country has suffered in recent weeks. Roads and infrastructures are left damaged and there is a high risk of further significant landslides.
Télécoms Sans Frontières, supported by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), is able to provide the immediate, essential support to the hundreds of thousands of people affected as well as the numerous humanitarian aid agencies in the field. The reinforcements sent from TSF’s international HQ mean that the hundreds and thousands of affected people will be able to make calls to their families to inform them of their situation and in many cases, reassure them that they are still alive. Thanks to its partnership with UNDAC (United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination) TSF is one of the first NGO responders on the ground, allowing for telecoms assessments to be carried out as well as the immediate installation of telecoms centres to generate a coordination hub for the other NGOs in the disaster zone.
Being amongst the first on the ground after Haiyan struck, this allowed TSF to pre-position three telecom centres for relief coordination before the influx of humanitarian aid arrived in the aftermath. The town of Tacloban has been identified at the most affected area, with head of UNDAC, Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, describing the area as having suffered “destruction on a massive scale”. TSF has already installed three functioning satellite connections which provide internet to the telecom centres put in place – the first, to the benefit of the Filipino NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) as well as the Ministry of Telecommunication, the second, used by the United Nations agencies of OCHA, WFP and UNDAC and the third for all of the other humanitarian organisations present in the area. TSF’s centres are essential to any humanitarian operation. They provide all NGOs with a management hub from which they can send and receive essential information concerning their operations, meaning they can work as efficiently as possible and coordinate their actions amongst the millions of people affected by Haiyan.
Working in collaboration with local telephone operator, SMART, TSF has carried out assessments of the telecom situation and it is estimated that it could take up to two months or more before the telecommunications networks are restored.
Security conditions across the Philippines are rapidly deteriorating. The critical need for food and water has lead desperate inhabitants to pillage supplies from shops and supermarkets, notably in the town of Tacloban, the most affected by Haiyan. Télécoms Sans Frontières has provided the Minister and Deputy Minister for Home Affairs and National Security with satellite telephones in order to improve communication capacities within the Filipino government services and beyond. The Department of Health has placed an official request for TSF to put into place a satellite connection within Tacloban General Hospital. The need for medical care is rife. TSF’s satellite connection will allow for hospital workers to communicate directly with medical teams on a national scale and provide well-coordinated health support to the thousands of victims seriously injured by the typhoon.
Télécoms Sans Frontières is pursuing its support to the United Nations agencies of OCHA and UNDAC by providing satellite internet connections and continuing to carry out field assessments. Two separate teams have deployed to the islands of Busuanga and Panai to provide both technical and material support to the UN, supplying satellite equipment and telephones for assessments which are being carried out in hospitals and military bases used as improvised evacuation centres.
Local operators, SMART and Globe Telecom have managed to partially restore GSM coverage in some areas of Tacloban. Pending the full operational service of the mobile network, TSF alongside SMART will continue to carry out humanitarian calling operations allowing the thousands of people cut off from the rest of the world to get in contact with their families in other areas of the Philippines and overseas to let them know that they are still alive.
Since 7th November 2013, Télécoms Sans Frontières and ECHO have been on the ground in the Philippines supporting the hundreds of thousands of people affected by Typhoon Haiyan as well as the numerous aid agencies and organisations working in the field.
· More than 30 international organisations helped thanks to several telecom centres
· 10 connections offered to the most affected municipalities
· Humanitarian Calling Operations (HCO) in 17 municipalities
· 5,100 families supported
· 12,000 minutes of communication
· TSF’s first Emergency Cyber Centre
More than three weeks after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, TSF is still on the ground maintaining its technical support to the government authorities and international NGOs in its emergency telecom centres as well intervening directly amongst the thousands of families affected by the disaster.
On the ground the day before the typhoon struck, TSF was able to put in place several telecom centres to be used by the various international organisations on the ground as well as a satellite connection in Tacloban General Hospital allowing health workers to deal with the growing need for medical care. Since its deployment, TSF has brought support to government agencies and over 30 international and national organisations including UNDAC, OCHA, ECHO, UNICEF, ACTED and Save the Children.
In agreement with the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council), TSF teams were also able to offer the installation of 10 satellite connections in the most affected municipalities across the Philippines which are still left without telephone networks.
Junel, a boy of about 7, handed TSF a telephone number on a piece of paper. It was his father’s number. His dad works in Manila. His mother works elsewhere in the Philippines. When the storm cut telecommunications he had no way to reach either parent and they couldn’t call him. Thanks to TSF, father and son, both of whom feared one another dead, were able to speak to one another for the first time in almost one month.
The ever-increasing success of TSF’s humanitarian calling operations has seen its teams deploy to 17 towns across the country, providing 5,100 families with over 12,000 minutes of free calls. In the coming days, TSF plans to continue these operations in the towns of the Eastern Samar province which are still left without network coverage.
Locations of TSF's HCO
Since 30th November, TSF, in collaboration with ECHO, has continued to adapt to the needs in the field of emergency telecommunications by opening the first TSF Emergency Cyber Centre in Guiuan. The centre, which welcomes on average 80 people per day, provides a high-speed satellite internet connection to 10 users at a time, allowing them to access the various means of communication that the internet has to offer. News sites, emails, social networks and internet calls can all be accessed by the victims of the typhoon in order that they have a window to the outside world and are able to remain informed of the scale of the situation across the country.
TSF's mission in the Philippines came to an end on 8th December 2013.