UN food agency teams up with partners to improve emergency communications

UN food agency teams up with partners to improve emergency communications

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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced the creation of a global partnership with the Vodafone Group Foundation and the UN Foundation aimed at increasing the effectiveness of information and communications technology (ICT) response to major emergencies around the world.

With a $4.3 million commitment from The Vodafone Group Foundation-United Nations Foundation Technology Partnership as well as a further $1.8 million contribution from the WFP, the initiative will develop the first-ever ICT training programme which will be open to the global community of humanitarian relief organizations, the food agency said in a news release.

“Over the next three years, this partnership will help contribute to our work to help save millions of lives," said Josette Sheeran, WFP's Executive Director. “Better telecommunications mean we can respond faster and more efficiently, with much greater access to those in urgent need.”

She added that WFP was greatly encouraged that The Vodafone Group Foundation and UN Foundation recognized that telecommunications are essential to food aid convoys, aircraft and medical teams delivering vital relief assistance.

The focus of the partnership will be to standardize ICT solutions used by global aid organizations to speed the ability to set up critical communications networks in the immediate aftermath of a humanitarian crisis. Other aspects planned for the next three years include supporting the immediate deployment of rapid response ICT teams.

Kathy Bushkin Calvin, Chief Operating Officer of the United Nations Foundation, pinted out that in 2007, aid groups responded to 19 major crises worldwide. “By investing in disaster response before disaster strikes, and by opening this partnership to the entire relief community, we know that this will help strengthen everyone's efforts on the ground.”

The programme builds on funding provided by the two Foundations in 2006 to research and develop ICT best practices.