In World’s Largest Refugee Camp, Souktel & Internews Empower Residents Via Mobile and Radio

(SoukTel sent out this e-newsletter about a project in the Dadaab refugee camp using SMS and radio.)

As the turmoil escalates in Syria, a growing number of refugees are fleeing the nation in search of safety. Unfortunately, they comprise just a small segment of the millions around the world who are forced to live in refugee camps, whether temporarily or for decades. In these situations, it's all the more important--yet all the more challenging--for aid agencies to connect with these displaced communities quickly and effectively. 

As a response to this need, media non-profit Internews has started a new project with Souktel in Dadaab, Kenya--the world’s largest refugee camp where more than 400,000 Somali refugees are now being housed. Partnering with local radio station Star FM, Internews has launched the Humanitarian Information Service; it empowers Dadaab residents who are journalists to produce broadcasts geared toward local needs--and it lets community members share their views on the broadcasts via SMS. Through hotlines that directly connect anyone with a mobile phone to workers at the Humanitarian Information Service, refugees will have a greater voice in determining what they hear on a daily basis.

Building on its experience designing custom mobile solutions in crisis zones like Somalia, Gaza, and Iraq, Souktel created a unique polling and mass messaging platform for Dadaab--and set up dedicated “shortcodes”, or mobile hotlines, to link it directly to national mobile networks. Souktel staff also provided remote server hosting and gave in-person training to Internews staff on how to manage the platform.

Michael Moszczynski, Souktel’s Chief Technology Officer, travelled to Dadaab to lead the mobile component launch. “This service is crucial because radio is essentially the only mass medium that reaches people,” he explained. “People can't afford televisions…This radio station allows them to receive information for free in their language, and allows [them] to communicate back their concerns and questions which are then answered on air”. He adds: “For example, elections within the camps are currently ongoing for community leaders; people can text in their questions about the election process so that everyone understands it, as well as potentially reporting irregularities”.

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