Mobile Application Reconnects Refugees with Loved Ones

Press release
Sep 22, 2010 19:02 (GMT +00:00)
  • Enables refugees to use mobile phones to register themselves, search for loved ones and reconnect via an anonymous database
  • 36 million refugees globally could benefit from this service
  • Commitment announced at Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting in New York
  • Successful pilot in Uganda expands to other countries of Africa

In support of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled from conflict and disaster areas, Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) and Refugees United, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and mobile operator MTN in Uganda, have launched the first project to locate and reconnect refugee and IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) families through the innovative use of mobile phones and internet. 

The program enables refugees to use mobile phones to register and search for loved ones via an anonymous database, and subsequently reconnect using mobile text messaging (SMS) or the Internet. The information registered may be accessed by refugees and NGOs caring for displaced people, and used to quickly put them in touch with their families.  

António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, says: "The role of the private sector is increasingly important for humanitarian assistance. Lending their knowledge and expertise to support the refugee cause is crucial as many of these projects would otherwise be outside of our reach. Today mobile phones are everywhere.  Utilizing this readily available technology for a good cause to enable refugees to connect with and reach out to family members they have lost contact with is fundamental."

Presented to governments and business leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting in New York today, the initiative started with a pilot deployment in northern Uganda at the beginning of September. The application is now being extended to other camps in Eastern Africa.

According to David and Christopher Mikkelsen, Directors of  Refugees United, on a recent implementation visit with UNHCR to Uganda they witnessed long lines of refugees waiting to sign up to the service to find missing family members. Most refugees have used a mobile phone so they feel secure, they know how it will work, and they give only information they are comfortable sharing, to reconnect.

Today more than 4,500 refugees have registered, a considerably higher number than possible with traditional methods.

"As a company and leader within our community, MTN understands the need to help where we can and have a deep emotional attachment to this project. Mobile telephony has contributed significantly to the growth of emerging markets, and we are proud to be part of this innovative use of the mobile phone to reunite displaced families in the Great Lakes region," says Anthony Katamba, General Manager, MTN Uganda.

According to UNHCR, there are over five million people of concern in East and Horn of Africa, some 14 percent of the global number of people that UNHCR assists around the world. UNHCR's main operations in this region include Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Hans Vestberg, President and CEO, Ericsson, says: "For well more than a decade now, through our Ericsson Response program, we have played an active role in responding to natural disasters or other human suffering. A sad part of that suffering is often the separation of families when large numbers of people become refugees or displaced. This commitment addresses this tragedy directly by helping reconnect those who have lost contact with their loved ones."

Refugees United also provides the service via computers and internet, but with more than five billion mobile subscriptions today the service via mobile phones is highly relevant. In Africa less than two percent of people have access to computers, compared to more than 45 percent that have a mobile phone.

In offering the service, Refugees United will create, maintain and update the database while Ericsson will provide the mobile application, technology and systems integration to enable the application in mobile networks. MTN will host and offer the service on their networks, and UNHCR will help to implement the project in the different refugee settlements.   Refugees United is actively supported by Delta Partners, who are providing strategic guidance to the initiative.

"Our mission is to make use of mobile technology to eliminate a major global issue, which is to reunite refugees with their loved ones", says Kai Uwe Ricke, Partner and Chairman of Board of Directors, Delta Partners.

"It was amazing and heartwarming to be able to visit Uganda and to see how thrilled the refugees were at the prospect of being able to reconnect with their lost loved ones. It really magnified how powerful and life changing this new technology is; it will change the lives of millions of refugees worldwide," says Emmanuel Jal, musician and former Sudanese refugee and child soldier.

Notes to editors:

Refugees United mobile site:

Our multimedia content is available at the broadcast room:


Ericsson is the world's leading provider of technology and services to telecom operators. Ericsson is the leader in 2G, 3G and 4G mobile technologies, and provides support for networks with over 2 billion subscribers and has the leading position in managed services. The company's portfolio comprises mobile and fixed network infrastructure, telecom services, software, broadband and multimedia solutions for operators, enterprises and the media industry. The Sony Ericsson and ST-Ericsson joint ventures provide consumers with feature-rich personal mobile devices. 

Ericsson is advancing its vision of being the "prime driver in an all-communicating world" through innovation, technology, and sustainable business solutions. Working in 175 countries, more than 80,000 employees generated revenue of SEK 206.5 billion (USD 27.1 billion) in 2009. Founded in 1876 with the headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, Ericsson is listed on OMX NASDAQ, Stockholm and NASDAQ New York.


Ericsson Corporate Public & Media Relations
Phone: +46 10 719 69 92

Ericsson Investor Relations
Phone: +46 10 719 00 00


About the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)

Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges. Since 2005, CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 125 current and former heads of state, 15 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations, major philanthropists, directors of the most effective nongovernmental organizations, and prominent members of the media. The CGI community also includes CGI University (CGI U), a forum to engage college students in global citizenship,, an online portal where anybody can make a Commitment to Action, and CGI Lead, which engages a select group of young leaders from business, government, and civil society. For more information, visit


Refugees United

Refugees United is a 501c3 non-profit helping refugee families that have lost contact with loved ones during escape from conflict with an anonymous platform to reconnect. Leveraging the power of mobile and Internet technologies, Refugees United provides a collaborative platform enabling NGOs and refugees themselves to exchange information on missing family across borders and conflicts to reconnect. Please visit 

Helene V. Sorensen

Outreach officer

Tel:  +45 3127 3972





The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people. In more than five decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, a staff of some 6,600 people in more than 110 countries continues to help about 34 million persons.

Needa Jehu-Hoyah
Assoc External Relations Officer
UNHCR Uganda
Tel: +256 (0) 414 230 011
       +256 (0) 414 231 231


Launched in 1994, the MTN Group is a multinational telecommunications group, operating in 21 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The MTN Group is listed on the JSE Securities Exchange in South Africa under the share code: "MTN". As at 31 March 2010, MTN recorded 123,5 million subscribers across its operations in Afghanistan, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Republic, Iran, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville), Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia. The MTN Group is a global sponsor of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa(TM) and has exclusive mobile content rights for Africa and the Middle East. Visit and

For more information, please contact: Rukh-Shana Namuyimba on +256 (0)31 212 1070 and on email:

About Delta Partners
Delta Partners is the leading TMT advisory and investment firm in emerging markets. With more than 160 professionals the firm operates across 50 markets in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Emerging Asia. Delta Partners provides three synergistic services: management advisory, corporate finance and investments from its offices in the UAE, Bahrain, South Africa, Spain and Singapore. Delta Partners delivers tangible results to its clients and investors through its exclusive sector focus on telecom, media and technology, and a unique approach to services, combining strategic advice and a hands-on pragmatic approach.


For further information please contact:
Mia Mutic
Delta Partners
+971 (4) 369-2999 /

About Emmanuel Jal
Emmanuel Jal was born in Southern Sudan, and spent the early years of his childhood in the midst of its longrunning civil war. At the age of 7, after the death of his mother, he was recruited as a child soldier for the Rebel army (SPLA).  Amazingly, he survived front line action and eventually managed to escape with 300 other "lost boys", enduring a 3 month trek on foot without any supplies to reach safety. One of only a handful to survive the journey, Emmanuel was rescued by Emma McCune, a British Aid Worker, who smuggled him to freedom in Kenya and enrolled him in school for the first time. Tragically, Emma died shortly afterwards in a car accident. Gradually, after so much sadness and trauma in his life Emmanuel began to find healing through the church and through music.  

Emmanuel is now a world famous rap artist with a Number 1 record under his belt. He has performed at Live 8 in Cornwall and his song Baai featured in the smash hit film Blood Diamond. "War Child", a documentary film telling Emmanuel's life story has premiered at the Berlin and Tribeca Film Festivals, and his album of the same name is on worldwide release. Throughout all this, Emmanuel has worked tirelessly with the United Nations, Amnesty International and Oxfam to campaign against the employment of child soldiers and the illegal trade of arms. His work with GUA Africa remains his overriding passion.

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