New Cell phone software to help Kenyan displaced refugees reunite
By Paul Ndiho
June 23, 2011
Monday, June 20, was World Refugee Day, a day to focus global attention on the most marginalized of populations, those who have been driven from their homes by violence and disaster. Communications and information technology is helping some of these refugees, and refugee agencies have developed new software to help displaced families find their loved ones using a mobile phone application.
There are over 11 million refugees in the world today, and conflict has created some 26 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). In Africa, many of them don’t know where their loved ones are.
The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, together with other partners, has launched a program to help refugees find their families and friends again.
In Kenya, mobile phone service provider, Safaricom has started a new service in Nairobi. Sanda Ojiambo, is the head Corporate responsibility at Safari com.
“Today Safaricom has launched in partnership with Ericsson, UNHCR and Refugees United a mobile phone based WAP internet based system whereby refugees can log on, register in an anonymous database, provide relevant information that will help them track, as well as be found by their family and friends. This is for refugees and displaced persons.” The program will enable millions of refugees to use S-M-S, mobile enabled browsing and the Android cell phone market to find relatives and friends. Refugees will be able to register and search for lost relatives through a database. Okoyi Ojulo is a refugee Ethiopia.
“Yeah, it’s a good service, because I can be able to get a chance to meet with my families who I have lost for a very long time, yeah almost for seven years now, yeah.”
Dagabrel Okoth, a Sudanese refugee, says the refugee registry is perhaps the best thing that can happen to a refugee camp:
“It is a good thing because if we are today talking of, saying that, we will find your friends we will find your families who are lost I think that is great I can also contribute I can inform my friends to actually come and register. I have friends and many other colleagues especially in south Sudan also Rwanda, Somali guys, I can also inform them especially those who have not heard of this information, I can personally go and tell them UNHCR has done this and this, can you guys come and register.”
The refugee registration service that was launched in Uganda in September 2010 has already registered some 41,000 refugees.