Photo: Courtesy IFRC
If disasters teach us anything, it’s the importance of communications in their aftermath. As NetHope coordinates with Bahamian officials, UN agencies, our nonprofit member organizations responding on the ground in the Bahamas, and our tech partners, it is clear that getting communications systems back up and running in the islands is absolutely imperative.
NetHope’s assessment team landed in the Bahamas at the first opportunity following Hurricane Dorian’s slow but devastating blow to the country. Government officials, law enforcement, and other local actors immediately coordinated to share news and information of areas that were in most urgent need of connection. The Category 5 hurricane hit with 185mph winds, flooding the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama with an estimated 50 percent of structures on Abaco destroyed, including the communication structures such as cell towers leveled or under water.
Due to this, communications throughout the affected area has been inconsistent, conflicting, or non-existent. To be effective, responding humanitarian organizations must have the ability to pinpoint the areas of most need. But without the communication network in place, or power, it makes response even more difficult. This delays the delivery of aid where it is needed most. We need help from everyone, tech partners and individuals, to re-establish communications.
At this point, more than 30+ sites—including medical facilities and shelters—have been identified to set up connectivity and communications networks. Fortunately, NetHope has been a part of an early response team to install VSAT satellite dishes to begin the effort of stringing together a series of hubs to give responders communications and also to provide those affected by the hurricane who are looking for loved ones, needing food, water, and shelter, and medical attention. Due to our Disaster Preparedness program, NetHope has already pre-positioned communications equipment in key areas in the Caribbean, allowing us to move to affected regions faster. And our Disaster Response Trainings are building a roster of trained technicians to respond to emergencies throughout the world.
What are NetHope’s immediate priorities?
To accomplish all this, immediate funding is necessary. We are thankful to our tech partners who have already offered equipment, people, and services to help. But we are in this for the long-term, to help now and until more permanent connectivity can be restored. Our immediate priorities include:
- Continue to coordinate with the Bahamian government’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)
- Coordinate with World Food Programme (UN Emergency Telecommunications Sector lead), and other humanitarian responders in the telecoms sector (TSF)
- Prioritize needs of responding NetHope Members
- Coordinate support from tech and funding partners
- Fulfill request to connect 35+ sites for emergency connectivity services for up to 3 months, which include humanitarian common operational areas and shelters
- Conduct assessments to help determine number and location of sites for affected community
- Provide required stand-alone solutions with power
- Share and consolidate critical information (both for responders and affected communities)
- Work with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to support their network recovery efforts
- Provide generators to NetHope Members
Our current needs include both cash and in-kind donations of connectivity solutions (equipment and bandwidth), funding for local and international staffing, Crisis Informatics and Information Management, and global program management and operations. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if your organization can assist with cash or in-kind assistance.
We would like to acknowledge:
Our member organizations already deployed in the area including: AmeriCares, Direct Relief, The International Federation of Red Cross and the Bahamas Red Cross, International Medical Corps, Mennonite Central Committee, Mercy Corps, The Nature Conservancy, Oxfam US, Plan International, Samaritan’s Purse, Save the Children, SOS Children's Villages, and Team Rubicon.
Our tech partners: Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Red52, Splunk, and Telecom Sans Frontiers
Responding agencies, including: the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the World Food Program (WFP).
Private companies: JM Honda of Miami
Please donate! Every dollar helps with the immediate and future needs of the Bahamas!
This article originally appeared on the NetHope blog.