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Télécoms sans frontières or TSF (English: Telecoms Without Borders) is a humanitarian-aid non-governmental organization specialised in telecommunications in emergency situations.

The emergency telecommunication means provided benefit to the victims of natural disasters and of conflicts, and to the other humanitarian aid organisations.

Contents

Organisation

TSF was founded in 1998 and is based at Pau in France. It has three operational bases : Pau (France), Managua (Nicaragua) and Bangkok (Thailand).

TSF is presided by Jean-François Cazenave.

Operations

In emergencies telecommunication networks can be seriously damaged or destroyed. Some humanitarian crises also strike in areas with no existing communication facilities. TSF rapid response telecommunications centers can assist relief and rescue teams by:

  • Sending and receiving information on logistics and the needs of the population
  • Assist with communications in the field, helping to connect governments, other relief agencies, and home offices
  • TSF civilian calling program supplements this service by giving affected civilians a free telephone to call anywhere in the world.

It can build up emergency telecommunications anywhere in the world within 48 hours with the help of UN, EU and large western telecommunications operators. TSF uses portable satellite terminals deployable rapidly. Since 1998, TSF has assisted in 60 emergencies. In 2007 alone, TSF deployed in 10 countries to the benefit of over 50,000 people and about 500 NGO and UN agencies.

History

The idea for Télécoms Sans Frontières was the result of a simple observation made after many years’ experience with general humanitarian charities, based on listening to those in need. During missions responding to the crisis in the Balkans and in Kurdistan during the 1st Gulf War, TSF’s founders realized that, in addition to medical and food aid, there was a critical need for reliable emergency telecommunications services. Conflicts and emergencies often led to massive civilian displacement and separated families. And affected populations are often left with no communications infrastructure in place to find assistance and loved ones.

During early missions in Kosovo, TSF’s founders were often approached by refugees with scraps of paper asking them, for example: “When you go home, please call my family at this number, tell them I’m alive, uncle has been killed but I’m alive and I’m at the refugee camp in Stenkovac.” To address the need for communications services, TSF bought its first satellite phone and the organization was born. Since this time, on every TSF mission we have offered a 3-minute call to any affected family.

TSF soon found that the international response teams that deploy to emergencies also had a critical need for reliable telecommunications services in the first days after an emergency. TSF therefore expanded its operations, improved its technology, and began to establish rapidly deployable emergency telecommunications centers to serve UN, government, and NGO humanitarian workers, and developed a reputation for being among the first to arrive after disasters.

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