Today, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Refugees United (REFUNITE), Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) and Zain Group officially launched a pilot project in South Sudan, which empowers separated families to search for their missing loved ones through a mobile phone. The Family Reconnection Project leverages simple mobile technology in support of the 1.4 million people who are internally displaced in South Sudan.
Ongoing internal conflict, coupled with lack of access to the internet and a breakdown of media infrastructure, has made it nearly impossible for separated families to reconnect within and across borders. The Family Reconnection Project enables separated families to search for missing friends and relatives. A series of mobile services will be rolled out during the coming weeks; all with the goal of making it easier for families to search, connect and communicate.
Following the announcement with Ericsson and IRC in November, to use technology to transform humanitarian response, the IRC is initially supporting the pilot in South Sudan by helping to connect those displaced by conflict, often without direct mobile phone or internet access, to an online platform that allows them to more easily contact family members, helping to close the digital divide among those who might otherwise fail to gain access.
The partners will aim to replicate the program in South Sudan across five other camps in Africa and the Middle East during 2015. In South Sudan alone, the pilot is expected to generate 10,000 registrations during 2015.
Scott Gegenheimer, CEO of Zain Group, says: "Mobile telecommunications have played a critical part in saving countless people’s lives and rejoining families in emergency situations all over the world. The need to act and support people in dire situations such as those internally displaced in South Sudan is as pressing as ever. Joining this initiative reconfirms Zain’s commitment of utilizing vital telecommunications to provide an important human service."
Christopher Mikkelsen, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of REFUNITE, says: "Everyone has the right to know where their family is. Mobile technology has the potential to speed up the family tracing process globally."
David Miliband, president and CEO of the IRC, says: "The IRC has deep presence and community relationships in South Sudan that will help get the most vulnerable, like illiterate individuals, onto this powerful platform. Through our extensive on-the-ground experience and expertise in refugee protection, the IRC will provide access to camps for internally displaced families in South Sudan."
Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Ericsson, says: "Combining the strengths of IRC and RU will significantly impact on our ability to reach the affected populations on the ground, and thus secure successful implementation of the Family Reconnection Project in South Sudan. This public-private partnership has the potential to positively impact families for generations to come."
Notes to editors
About Refugees United
Refugees United (REFUNITE) is a technology-based nonprofit organization that connects disconnected people to life-saving services. In 2008, brothers and social entrepreneurs David and Christopher Mikkelsen built www.refunite.org with the goal of making it easier for refugees to reconnect with their missing loved ones. Since then, more than 400,000 people have registered with REFUNITE in refugee camps and other refugee prone areas, making it the biggest platform for separated displaced people globally.
About the International Rescue Committe
The International Rescue Committee helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future. IRC teams provide health care, infrastructure, learning and economic support to people in 40 countries, with special programs designed for women and children. Every year, the IRC resettles thousands of refugees in 22 U.S. cities. Learn more at Rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.
Zain Group is a leading telecommunications operator across the Middle East and Africa providing mobile voice and data services to over 44.3 million active customers as of 31 December, 2014. With a commercial presence in 8 countries, Zain operates in: Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and South Sudan. In Lebanon, the Group manages ‘touch’ on behalf of the government. In Morocco, Zain has a 15.5% stake in Wana Telecom, now branded ‘INWI’, through a joint venture. Zain is listed on Kuwait Stock Exchange (stock ticker: ZAIN). For more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: www.zain.com; www.facebook.com/zain; www.twitter.com/zain; www.youtube.com/zain; www.instagram.com/zaingroup; www.linkedin.com/company/zain.
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