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UN-Vodafone Partnership to aid emergency communications

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), The Vodafone Group Foundation, and the United Nations Foundation announced today a ground-breaking "global partnership for emergency communications". The partnership will increase the effectiveness of the information and communications technology (ICT) response to major emergencies and disasters around the world.

The partnership, which includes a $4.3 million commitment from The Vodafone Group Foundation-United Nations Foundation Technology Partnership as well as a further $1.8 million contribution from the WFP, will develop the first-ever ICT training programme which will be open to the global community of humanitarian relief organizations.

"Over the next three years, this partnership will contribute to our work to help save millions of lives. Better telecommunications mean we can respond faster and more efficiently, with much greater access to those in urgent need" says Josette Sheeran, WFP's Executive Director. She added that WFP was greatly encouraged that The Vodafone Group Foundation and UN Foundation recognized that telecommunications are essential to food aid convoys, aircraft and medical teams delivering vital relief assistance.

The focus of the partnership will be to standardize ICT solutions used by global aid organizations to improve the speed with which critical communications networks can be established in the immediate aftermath of a humanitarian crisis. Over the next three years, the programme will also:

  • expand the pool of trained ICT experts on WFP and other UN and NGO staff to more than 500 first responders

  • support the immediate deployment of rapid response ICT teams.

"More and more frequently, the international aid community is being called on to help save lives, restore order and rebuild communities after major disasters" says Kathy Bushkin Calvin, Chief Operating Officer of the United Nations Foundation. In 2007, aid groups responded to 19 major crises worldwide. "By investing in disaster response before disaster strikes, and by opening this partnership to the entire relief community, we know that this will help strengthen everyone's efforts on the ground".

"This is about harnessing the power of telecommunications which will help WFP and other humanitarian agencies get the job done" says Andrew Dunnett, Director of The Vodafone Group Foundation. "In line with the huge demand for telecoms technology in disaster response, ICT workers are often among the first on the scene. This partnership supports the smart and effective use of telecommunications technology, enabling WFP to deploy quickly in the most difficult and dangerous situations and set up the necessary communications networks, so that relief workers can coordinate logistics and deliver vital supplies."

The programme builds on funding provided by the two Foundations in 2006 to research and develop ICT best practices, and a curriculum used in a preliminary ICT training programme last March which trained 21 ICT staff from agencies including WFP, UNICEF, OCHA, Oxfam, and the Swedish Rescue Service Agency. Since then, these experts have been deployed to provide technical expertise in emergencies including the bombing of UN and government offices in Algeria in December 2007, flooding in Bangladesh in November 2007 and during the ongoing flooding in Mozambique.

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