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News || Sunday, 11 January 2015

Souktel, Ooredoo and GSMA Promote Disaster Preparedness in Middle East/North Africa

DOHA (Yahoo News) - Ooredoo is working with the GSMA and Souktel Mobile Solutions to develop new partnerships--and enhance current strategies--for managing disaster readiness, following the first-ever Middle East Summit on Mobile Technology and Crisis Response.

As countries across the Middle East face growing humanitarian crises, mobiles are playing a key part in aid efforts: When Iraqi refugees were asked about their urgent needs in a recent poll, mobile charging stations were the main form of help they requested after food and water. As a result, aid agencies rushed to include solar-powered phone chargers in emergency relief packages.

According to the GSMA's 2014 Mobile Economy for the Arab World report, the Middle East and North Africa were home to 195 million of the world's 3.4 billion unique mobile subscriptions in 2013 – a 53% penetration rate. Yet at the same time, regional conflict forced an estimated 33.3 million people to become internally displaced. A further 17 people million people became refugees, with more than 600,000 residing in Jordan alone.

These crises put pressures not only on displaced populations, but on host communities, local infrastructure and service providers. These were the issues that the Middle East Summit on Mobile Technology and Crisis Response sought to examine: Held in Amman, Jordan, the event brought together more than 30 leaders in the aid and telecoms sectors to build partnerships that will enable quicker, more effective service delivery in emergencies.

The Ooredoo Group has a long history of providing emergency aid via technology--including a recent Gaza SMS donation campaign led by its Palestine mobile network, Wataniya. During the month-long drive, customers across Palestine could donate directly to relief efforts by pledging funds via text message, through their mobile accounts. These rapid donations helped get real-time assistance to families across the Gaza Strip. In parallel, Souktel and the Ooredoo Group have partnered to provide basic education services via mobile to Palestinian students--ensuring that learning can continue even when disaster strikes.

Dr. Nasser Marafih, Group CEO, Ooredoo, said: “Disaster relief and preparedness are becoming increasingly important elements of our strategy for serving the community, particularly as mobile technology opens new opportunities to help people and provide support. Being there to connect and care for people during emergency situations is one of Ooredoo’s core values – and one we are striving to support in every market that we operate in.”

“Access to mobile network services can be a lifeline for those affected by crisis,” said Kyla Reid, Head of Disaster Response, GSMA. “Innovative partnerships between mobile network operators and humanitarian organisations is critical in ensuring that those displaced or impacted by humanitarian emergencies are able to connect, seek and receive critical information and are able to support response activities in their communities.”

Jacob Korenblum, CEO, Souktel Mobile Solutions, added: “Partnerships are essential for achieving impact in humanitarian response work. In this sense, it's encouraging that mobile network operators like Ooredoo Group are presenting themselves as proactive partners, who are keen to make a difference by working jointly with aid providers.”

With millions of mobile customers now facing another year as refugees, the need for strong cooperation between humanitarian aid providers and mobile networks is only likely to grow further. The Middle East Summit on Mobile Technology & Crisis Response provided a crucial first step, paving the way for new partnerships between agencies like the UN and mobile networks across the region.