By Eric Sande
Through this service, a very vulnerable segment of our society now has a real chance of being re-united with their loved ones.
NAIROBI—As the world marked the World Refugee Day Monday, Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile operator in collaboration with Ericsson and Refugees United have come together to make it easier for refugees to be united with their loved ones. This is in support of the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled from conflict and disaster areas.
The partnership will see Safaricom offer its remarkable 17 Million plus client’s database within its network niche in Kenya for an app jointly developed by Ericsson and Refugee. The mobile site enables refugees to access Refugees United’s mobile site – [ http://m.refunite.org ]http://m.refunite.org, register themselves (in English, Kiswahili, Somali or Arabic), search for and subsequently reconnect with loved ones. Once registered, the information is stored in an anonymous database that is maintained by Refugees United.
Speaking to the media ,Safaricom CEO, Mr. Bob Collymore said,“This is a great and innovative partnership for us. It not only expands the utility one can derive from being connected to the Safaricom network, but also provides a live example of the inclusiveness we seek in all our operations. Through this service, a very vulnerable segment of our society now has a real chance of being re-united with their loved ones. The service typifies the spirit of problem-solving innovation for societal good that has been the guiding philosophy for our business over the years.”
The initiative targets to register 120,000 people on the service by the end of 2011. The programme was piloted in Adjumani Refugee settlement by MTN Uganda together with UNHCR. Refugees United has confirmed that in the past nine months, more than 41,000 have registered in their search for missing family members. This efforts has triggered other countries hosting refugees to broaden cooperation.
David Troensegaard, co-founder of Refugees United said at the launch, “We are tremendously excited to further our work in Kenya, enabling us to reach, and help, many more separated refugee families through their one link to the world: Mobile phones. This partnership will help us reach many more people with critical information about this new possibility to potentially restore contact with missing loved ones.” The majority of the refugees are in the camps as a result of civil unrest over the last 40 years and, more recently, a series of natural and climate related disasters in East Africa.
Latest figures published by the UNHCR in the 2011 report indicate that this population has risen by eight percent since September 2010 to nearly 1.4 million. The 2010 report published by the UNHCR, shows that the number of refugees world-wide currently was mounting to 43 million.In Kenya where we find the World’s biggest refugee camp – Dadaab Refugee Camp, located in arid north-eastern Kenya, the capacity of refugees inflated from an initial capacity for 90,000 people in 1991 but now holds some 332,000 refugees.