TSF builds call centre, uses WhatsApp to help Beirut explosion families
The telecoms industry’s emergency response charity has already supported 872 families in Beirut, following the explosions which devastated the city a month ago.
Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) despatched a team to the Lebanese capital just days after the 4 August explosion in the port area. They have set up IP telephone solutions that are designed for humanitarian crises to connect families with critical aid.
TSF, the world’s first non-governmental organisation (NGO) focused on emergency response technologies, set up a call centre with local group Live Love Lebanon and the Beirut Relief Coalition to enable disaster victims to report their needs, whether that be medical, psychological or financial aid.
Florent Bervas (pictured), TSF’s IT specialist who is now head of mission for the Beirut relief effort, said: “Any time there is an explosion or natural disaster, the local infrastructure can easily become saturated and unreliable, making it increasingly more challenging for emergency teams and relief workers to coordinate their efforts. There are a number of NGOs providing support here in Beirut, and we’re glad our technology has helped them with their important relief work.”
To date, about half of requests have been related to housing or reconstruction, 20% medical care, and 20% requesting food, with the remaining 10% of requests relating to other key areas such as sanitation.
The call centre uses a pioneering solution originally developed by TSF for Venezuelan refugees in Brazil in 2018. Its flexibility allows it to be used directly by people on the ground, facilitating relief coordination in Lebanon.
In addition, TSF has developed a WhatsApp bot, which asks initial questions based on individual situations, and transmits them to Live Love Lebanon’s call centre, expediting the aid process. WhatsApp is the most common communications platform in Lebanon.
Edouard Bitar, president of Live Love Lebanon, added: “The work is daunting and TSF’s expertise has been crucial. The communications infrastructure provided by TSF has been vital in coordinating our response to this crisis. For us this call centre is like a brain, and without TSF’s technology helping emergency teams on the ground, and the quick response to establish a call centre, we would not have been able to ensure support is reaching those who need it most.”
He added: “It is a huge operation but, with the support of organisations like TSF, we believe that we will have all the tools and expertise to address our initial mission, which is to provide support to as many people as we can, in the quickest and smartest way possible.”
Since its inception in 1998, TSF has responded to more than 140 crises around the world, covering over 70 different countries.
In total, it has helped nearly a thousand other NGOs conduct their own aid work in the harshest of environments, helping more than 20 million beneficiaries in the last two decades. It has also played a significant role in Covid-19 relief efforts – in Syria, for example, it connected medical centres and hospitals across the country, aiding the recovery of 160,000 patients.