Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) has deployed critical telecoms infrastructure that has already supported 872 families in Beirut so far, following the explosions which devastated the city on the 4th of August.
The explosions in Beirut’s Port resulted in the local communications network being damaged and becoming unreliable, making it more difficult for citizens to access essential information and resources, and more difficult for emergency teams and relief workers to coordinate on a saturated network. Electricity was also being provided almost entirely through generators, meaning relief efforts were even more challenging. In response, TSF quickly deployed a team to Beirut in collaboration with the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination teams and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to provide reliable communications in the area of the disaster.
TSF established a call centre with local NGO Live Love Lebanon and the Beirut Relief Coalition to enable disaster victims to report their needs, whether that be medical, psychological, or financial aid. TSF’s technology has so far facilitated the coordination of emergency search and rescue teams and aid relief operations to support more than 870 families.
To date, approximately 50% of requests have been related to housing or reconstruction, 20% medical care, and 20% requesting food, with the remaining 10% of requests relating to other key areas such as sanitation.
The call centre uses a pioneering solution originally developed by TSF for Venezuelan refugees in Brazil in 2018. Its flexibility allows it to be used directly by people on the ground, facilitating relief coordination in Lebanon. In addition, In addition, TSF developed a WhatsApp bot, which asks initial questions based on individual situations, and transmits them to Live Love Lebanon’s call centre, expediting the aid process. WhatsApp is the most common communications platform in Lebanon.
Florent Bervas, TSF’s Head of Mission for the Beirut relief effort, said: “Any time there is an explosion or natural disaster, the local infrastructure can easily become saturated and unreliable, making it increasingly more challenging for emergency teams and relief workers to coordinate their efforts. There are a number of NGOs providing support here in Beirut, and we’re glad our technology has helped them with their important relief work.”
Edouard Bitar, President of Live Love Lebanon, added: “The work is daunting and TSF’s expertise has been crucial. The communications infrastructure provided by TSF has been vital in coordinating our response to this crisis. For us this call centre is like a brain, and without TSF’s technology helping emergency teams on the ground, and the quick response to establish a call centre, we would not have been able to ensure support is reaching those who need it most.
It is a huge operation, but with the support of organisations like TSF, we believe that we will have all the tools and expertise to address our initial mission, which is to provide support to as many people as we can, in the quickest and smartest way possible.”
Since its inception in 1998, TSF has responded to more than 140 crises around the world, covering over 70 different countries. In total, it has helped nearly a thousand other NGOs conduct their own aid work in the harshest of environments, helping more than 20 million beneficiaries in the last two decades. It has also played a significant role in Covid-19 relief efforts – in Syria, for example, it connected medical centres and hospitals across the country, aiding the recovery of 160,000 patients.
TSF will have a team remaining in Beirut over the next couple of months to continue supporting aid work. Those interested in supporting the ongoing relief efforts in Beirut can do so here: