Deploys mobile phone network within largest refugee camp in South Sudan
The Vodafone Foundation has announced that it will deploy its portable mobile phone network in the largest refugee camp in South Sudan. This will allow aid workers to undertake life saving work and enable 70,000 refugees to contact relatives for free, plus giving children access to education programmes.
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.
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 100 kilograms, and can be transported on commercial flights, in the Yida camp in Unity State, South Sudan. Yida camp is an overcrowded temporary settlement and lacks even the most basic infrastructure.
The Vodafone Foundation Instant Network 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 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.
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.
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.'
The announcement coincided with the United Nations' (UN) World Refugee Day on 20 June, a day dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of refugees. The deployment will be carried out in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Separately, Vodafone Group's subsidiary in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Vodacom Congo, has announced a commitment to support 17,000 refugees at the Mugunga Camp in North Kivu Province, Goma. Vodacom Congo has launched a text message donation service called Alerte Rouge in which funds will be raised to meet basic emergency needs such as the purchase of food, tents, blankets and mosquito nets. A team from the Vodafone Foundation is currently in the DRC exploring deploying the Instant Network in the Mugunga camp in the near-term and will assess the potential for setting up education programmes based on mobile devices.