January's earthquake in Haiti caused extensive damage to communications networks, making it difficult for those who survived the tremors to contact friends and family, and hindering relief efforts.
Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF), a humanitarian agency specialising in emergency telecommunications, deployed teams in Haiti the day after the first earthquake shock, to provide connections and technical services to local authorities and aid agencies.
The aid organisation has established a 'humanitarian calling operation' that offers free, three-minute phone calls for people who have been forced from their homes by the disaster, such as this man in Port-au-Prince.
TSF teams move from camp to camp, providing satellite phones for international calls and mobile phones for local calls, according to team member Myriam Annette. The satellite technology and equipment is funded by the UN Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation.
The three teams have helped hundreds of families to make calls every day, according to Annette, but there is a lot of ground to cover, as there are a reported 600 survivors' camps.
TSF said it has installed high-speed connections in key locations, such as the airport, the Minustah camp housing aid agency workers, and the office of the national Haitian police co-ordinating aid distribution.
TSF is setting up broadband satellite equipment — Vsats and Bgans — and networking for UN-backed efforts. The emergency satellite and internet communications are critical in allowing workers to co-ordinate the distribution of aid, according to TSF.
New antennas have been installed in Port-au-Prince as part of the emergency communications network.
The free calls provide the first connection with the outside world for many of those affected by the earthquake, according to TSF.