Ericsson along with MTN Uganda, Refugees United and United nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched the first project to locate and reconnect refugee and IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) families through the innovative use of mobile phones and internet.
The program enables refugees to use mobile phones to register and search for loved ones via an anonymous database, and subsequently reconnect using mobile text messaging (SMS) or the Internet. The information registered may be accessed by refugees and NGOs caring for displaced people, and used to quickly put them in touch with their families.
António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, says, "The role of the private sector is increasingly important for humanitarian assistance. Lending their knowledge and expertise to support the refugee cause is crucial as many of these projects would otherwise be outside of our reach. Today mobile phones are everywhere. Utilizing this readily available technology for a good cause to enable refugees to connect with and reach out to family members they have lost contact with is fundamental."
"As a company and leader within our community, MTN understands the need to help where we can and have a deep emotional attachment to this project. Mobile telephony has contributed significantly to the growth of emerging markets, and we are proud to be part of this innovative use of the mobile phone to reunite displaced families in the Great Lakes region," says Anthony Katamba, General Manager, MTN Uganda.
According to UNHCR, there are over five million people of concern in East and Horn of Africa, some 14 percent of the global number of people that UNHCR assists around the world. UNHCR's main operations in this region include Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Hans Vestberg, President and CEO, Ericsson, comments, "For well more than a decade now, through our Ericsson Response program, we have played an active role in responding to natural disasters or other human suffering. A sad part of that suffering is often the separation of families when large numbers of people become refugees or displaced. This commitment addresses this tragedy directly by helping reconnect those who have lost contact with their loved ones."