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ITU deploys satellite in Zambia

The International Telecommunication Union has deployed 25 satellite terminals to help restore vital communication links in the aftermath of severe floods that have inundated low-lying districts across Zambia.

Nearly 400 000 people in 19 districts across the country have been affected, with as many as 36 000 inhabitants displaced. The majority of the victims are in Monze (Western Province), Mumbwa (Central Province), Mkushi (Central Province), Mazabuka (Southern Province) and Kafue (Lusaka Province). A total of 3418 homes and 44 schools collapsed as a result of heavy rainfall, and ensuing floods have destroyed roads and communication links, hampering the coordination and delivery of assistance.

The mobile terminals deployed by ITU are easily transported by road and air to the affected regions and have facilitated the coordination of relief operations by both government and humanitarian agencies to aid the victims of this disaster.

"I empathize with the Government and the people of Zambia for the untold suffering caused by the floods that have left a large number of people displaced and their crops wiped out," said Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau. "Cases such as this re-affirm the importance of disaster communications and underscore the need for the recently launched ITU Framework for Cooperation in Emergencies (IFCE) aimed at saving lives through the timely delivery of telecommunications resources to disaster-affected areas."

Mr Shuller Habeenzu, Chief Executive/Controller for the Communications Authority of Zambia said, "The satellite terminals that ITU provided are critical for an effective response to this unprecedented rainfall which has inundated many parts of the country causing severe flooding, destruction of infrastructure, damage to homes and the displacement of many people. The damage to road infrastructure has resulted in some parts of the country being cut-off and thus further complicating the Government's efforts to gather information and coordinate its response."

Cosmas Zavazava, Chief of ITU's Division for Emergency Telecommunications said, "We appreciate the contributions from our partners who continue to contribute various technologies and funds to the ITU Framework for Cooperation in Emergencies launched at the Global Forum on 'Effective Use of Telecommunications for Disaster Management: Saving Lives', held last December. I can safely say that we are dedicated to reinforcing the support that we will put in place for first responders and victims of disasters. The IFCE is an innovative mechanism that has opened new doors of opportunities and choice."

ITU is providing both Thuraya hand-held satellite phones and Inmarsat Global Area Network (GAN) terminals. The Thuraya satellite phones use both satellite and GSM networks and also provide accurate GPS positioning coordinates to aid relief and rescue. The Inmarsat GAN terminals are mainly used for voice communications and, in some cases, can be used for high-speed data. ITU pays for all expenses, including transportation of the equipment and its usage.

Global Forum on emergency telecommunications

Emergency telecommunications is the key for government and humanitarian aid agencies involved in rescue operations, medical assistance and recovery. ITU hosted a 'Global Forum on the effective use of telecommunications/ICT for disaster management: Saving Lives' in Geneva, Switzerland from 10 to 12 December 2007. A number of key innovative emergency telecommunications initiatives were launched to ensure timely intervention of telecommunications resources before, during and after disasters strike. The event brought together high government officials, CEOs from the telecommunications industry, United Nations agencies, and non-governmental organizations. Eleven Cooperation Agreements were signed with key partners.