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News || Monday, 03 December 2012

Save the Children, UN, CHF and Souktel Partner to Enhance Relief Efforts

Souktel’s ‘AidLink’ mobile platform has been used in crisis responses from Somalia to Iraq, but recent events in Gaza are a stark reminder that the technology was developed in a place which, itself, is often in crisis. When conflict escalated this month, Souktel moved quickly to deliver mobile services that helped communities in its own region, especially when traditional forms of communication--such as landlines, Internet and even radio or TV signals--were disrupted.

One of these services, run in partnership with UNESCO, had already been in place since launching in Gaza last year; it allows teachers and staff at local schools to send out SMS alerts to families, warning them about potential danger in the area. Throughout this month’s conflict, 29 schools used the service to send thousands of alerts each week. One message read, "No classes today due to ongoing fighting. Please ensure children stay at home," while another asked teachers to attend an emergency training session.

"This service proved to be critical," says Dalia Othman, Souktel’s lead Project Manager for the Gaza response, "because there was a lack of reliable information as to which areas of Gaza are safe or not. By allowing school staff to send out these alerts, in real time, communities could assess the situation on an hourly basis."

In parallel, Souktel worked with aid agency CHF International to set up a rapid response platform which let staff collect data from local families about shelling damage to their homes. CHF personnel at multiple sites used the incoming results to inform their response planning. As of Nov. 22, the agency had delivered World Food Program emergency aid to nearly 50,000 Gazans.

Meanwhile, a custom mobile data collection platform is giving Save the Children new tools to carry out rapid needs assessments, and to inform community members--at scale--about available emergency aid. The non-profit is preparing to distribute food, water and shelter materials to families, and vital medicines to hospitals. Targeted SMS alerts will help ensure that this assistance reaches those who need it most. Dynamic web interfaces let staff monitor these messaging and distribution campaigns--whether they’re in Gaza or in Save the Children’s US head office.

"We feel it's our duty to help out as much as we can, especially in our own community," says Othman from Souktel's head office in Ramallah. "Unfortunately, Souktel is based in a part of the world where conflict is frequent. But this reality has given us a unique insight into how we can build mobile software that helps communities in a time of need. Our solutions are created in crisis zones, for people in crisis zones--and so we believe this results in better technology that better addresses local needs”.