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Mali: TSF's satellite equipment is connecting Timbuktu

Source: Télécoms Sans Frontières
Country: Mali

Following the complete reestablishment of the mobile network in Timbuktu, the TSF emergency team left Mali on February 12th. However, the Internet connection remains unavailable, that is why TSF has given the town hall staff all the equipment necessary to access the Internet.

In Mali, the 14 satellite lines of Télécoms Sans Frontières allowed to establish 550 connections for the benefit of 4,200 beneficiaries, for whom it was often the first call they made for several months. The mobile network had been restored but functioned only partially.

Thanks to Télécoms Sans Frontières, people can make international calls (United States, Senegal, Ivory Coast, France, Liberia…) to tell their loved ones they are safe and sound. The Mayor of Timbuktu testifies: "The army delivered us, Télécoms Sans Frontières reconnected us! I was able to call Bamako and directly inform the authorities about the situation here in Timbuktu."

The TSF experts also installed an Internet satellite connection at the town hall for the benefit of the NGOs, the crisis unit, the hospital staff and the local authorities.

The TSF satellite equipment reinforces the capacities of humanitarian workers in the region of Timbuktu enabling them to share vital information to manage the very critical humanitarian situation in this area.

The communication is very disturbed in northern Mali, where land lines and mobile network have been cut off in several towns, and the activities of the NGOs in this region are very limited because of the degradation in safety conditions.

In the Sahel region, the security conditions have significantly deteriorated in March 2012 with the massive arrival in Mali neighboring countries of refugees fleeing the fighting between the Tuareg rebels and the regular army. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees there are more than 144 400 refugees in the neighbouring countries.

According to WFP, since last August, humanitarian support is the main means of survival for most of the Sahel people. In order to reinforce the assistance to vulnerable populations, TSF is providing reliable and rapid satellite communications for a better coordination of the organisations in the field.

Given the extremely complex security context in the Sahel region, TSF is using both fixed and mobile satellite equipment to connect its humanitarian Hubs and the teams during their trips.

Abala refugee camp, 400 km from Gao:

On 24th April 2012, TSF installed a Vsat satellite antenna in the coordination offices of ACTED and UNHCR within the Abala camp which is now hosting more than 14,300 refugees. The humanitarian hub offers a secured Wifi connection to the 30 humanitarian workers who come daily to connect: MSF Switzerland, MSF France, CARE International, Islamic Relief, CADEV, HELP, VSF Belgium, ACTED and UNHCR…

The 94Mb exchanged from the TSF humanitarian hub allow a more efficient daily management of the information and a coordinated response of all the actors in the area.

Gorom-Gorom refugee camp, 200km from Gao:

The installation by TSF of the Vsat satellite connection on 11th July 2012 within the offices of Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Belgium (VSF-B) in Gorom-Gorom, north-eastern Burkina Faso, enabled the NGOs and United Nations agencies working in the area to exchange 41Mb of data.

The connection is benefitting to VSF-B, A2N, UNHCR, Red Cross, Save the Children, HELP, AEC, TASSATH, Afrique Verte and AGED. The DPASSN and the Discrict Direction of Health also regularly use the humanitarian hub.

Before the intervention of TSF, the organisations in the area were forced to cover every week the 57 km separating Gorom-Gorom from Dori, the departmental capital, to find a good Internet access. Since then, the TSF connection supports the implementation of emergency activities which notably increased since May 2012, and facilitates the communication between the field and the central services at national and international levels.

Djibo refugee camp, 330km from Timbuktu:

On 19th July, the TSF satellite connection in the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is reinforcing the actions of all the NGOs in the area (Oxfam…) with refugees in the camps north of Djibo, where more than 15,000 people are living. 59 Mb of data have been exchanged.

In the region of Gorom-Gorom, few kilometers from the Mali border, the mobile network is operational but the Internet access is only possible through Edge network or 3G keys, thus the connection is very slow and not reliable at all.

The precarious security conditions are making emergency humanitarian intervention even more difficult and jeopardizing vulnerable populations’ survival. TSF satellite communications allow a better coordination of field teams and thus reinforce their actions with Sahel people.

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