UN and partners use new mobile phone application to enable refugees to trace families

9 September 2010

The United Nations refugee agency is backing a pilot project to use a mobile telephone application to help locate and reconnect refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Uganda with their families.

The project will enable refugees to use mobile telephones to register themselves, search for loved ones, and subsequently be able to reconnect through an anonymous database, using SMS or mobile Internet.

The project is jointly implemented by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the non-governmental organization (NGO) known as Refugees United, the telecommunications company Ericsson and the mobile telephone service provider MTN, UNHCR reported yesterday.

Although the database is maintained by Refugees United, information registered can be used for search purposes by refugees, NGOs and international organizations caring for displaced persons and to quickly put loves ones in touch with each other. The partners plan to expand the project to other countries.

“UNHCR welcomes this new method of reuniting refugees with their friends and family,” said Kai Nielsen, the UNHCR Representative in Uganda. “The pilot project is an important step towards a global partnership in which even the least fortunate people in the world can stay connected through innovative and accessible technology,” he added.

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