Télécoms Sans Frontières steps up to the plate in stricken Beirut

The massive explosion in Beirut last month devastated the city’s telecoms infrastructure, further complicating the relief effort and requiring a specialised solution.

Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) positions itself as the world’s first NGO focused on emergency response technologies. The explosion in Beirut’s port district created an unprecedented emergency as the blast flattened its immediate environment and cause severe structural damage over a wide radius. TSF was on the ground early and has provided an update of its activities.

The main activity involved deploying critical telecoms infrastructure, which has apparently supported 872 families in Beirut so far. The damage to the infrastructure not only made it difficult for Beirut residents to get in touch with emergency services and generally keep themselves informed, it meant what networks there were became saturated and thus unreliable for emergency services themselves.

TSF set up a call centre with fellow NGOs Live Love Lebanon and the Beirut Relief Coalition to allow victims to communicate their needs. 50% of requests have been related to housing or reconstruction, 20% medical care, and 20% requesting food. The call centre combined a bespoke IP communications solution with a WhatsApp bot designed to efficiently put people in touch with the right services for their needs.

“The work is daunting and TSF’s expertise has been crucial,” said Edouard Bitar, President of Live Love Lebanon. “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.”

TSF has been going since 1998 and has got involved in over 140 crises in that time, usually in coordination with other NGOs. Recently is has also been helping out in war-torn Syria, to help DOVID-19 sufferers get medical attention. You can find out more about its work and how to support TSF here.

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