The Vodafone Foundation will deploy its portable mobile phone network in the largest refugee camp in South Sudan, allowing aid workers to undertake life-saving work, enabling 70,000 refugees to contact relatives for free and giving children access to life-changing education programmes.
The deployment was announced to coincide with the United Nations’ (UN) World Refugee Day on 20 June, 2013, a day dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of refugees, with millions of people around the world forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution. The deployment will be carried out in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
A team from the Vodafone Foundation will travel from Kenya to set up the Instant Network - a mobile phone network which fits in to three suitcases, weighs less than 100kg and can be transported on commercial flights - in the Yida camp in Unity State. Yida camp is an overcrowded temporary settlement and lacks even the most basic infrastructure.
In 2012, the Vodafone Foundation Instant Network was deployed to provide communications during severe droughts in Kaikor, Northern Kenya and in Davao Oriental in the Philippines following Typhoon Bopha. In both cases, the equipment was set up within 40 minutes.
The Vodafone Foundation Instant Network deployment in South Sudan will operate in partnership with Vodafone Group’s mobile network partner Zain Group and will include the distribution of handsets and the provision of free airtime to aid workers across the 3,000-acre refugee camp for a period of six months.
The mission to South Sudan will also include an assessment of a larger permanent refugee camp one hour’s drive from Yida to look at the potential for deploying the equipment to support a range of education programmes. The Vodafone Foundation is exploring options to establish an education centre for child refugees in this location, using tablets and smartphones to provide schooling to children with no access to conventional educational facilities. The programme could begin as early as July 2013 and would be part of a wider plan to provide education for children living in refugee camps. In April 2013, the Vodafone Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Educate A Child, a global programme launched by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar in November 2012, to bring quality primary education to millions of out of school children.
Vodafone Group Sustainability Director and Director of the Vodafone Foundation Andrew Dunnett, said: “Providing mobile technology in refugee camps will enable aid agencies to operate more effectively and will allow vulnerable people to contact their loved ones. It is also our intention to use Vodafone’s technology to provide many thousands of children living in refugee camps far from home with access to educational programmes which cannot be delivered through any other means.”