TSF: 6 weeks in Haiti, 10,500 families reconnected

Interviews with Paul Margie, TSF representative in the United States.


On the ground since the day after the earthquake, TSF teams faced one of the most devastating disasters of the last decade. They provided, day after day, their support to the humanitarian community and to the affected populations.



General information

- Date of the earthquake : January 12th 2010

- 222,500 victims

- 3,5 million people affected

- 1.5 million homeless people

- Telecom infrastructures destroyed

TSF deployment

-    Date of deployment of the 1st emergency TSF team from Managua : January 13th 2010

-    Date of deployment of the 2nd TSF team from TSF's HQ: January 15th 2010
-    38 people on the ground
-    6 weeks in Haiti (end of the mission: 24th February 2010)
-    5 regions covered (Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, Leogane, Petit Goave and Grand Goave)

-    In total, TSF’s installations allowed populations and emergency workers to communicate for 765 hours.


TSF support to the humanitarian community

benoit-aeroportAs soon as they arrived, TSF experts set up high-speed connections in strategic coordination centres. Seven telecom centres were opened.



- At the airport: at the OSOCC centre (On-Site Operations Coordination Centre). Using BGAN terminals, TSF established Internet connections and high-speed satellite lines to the benefit of the UNDAC teams (United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination)  and Search And Rescue teams (such as USAR UK, USAR Peru, Defensa civil Española, USAR Mexico…). The centre had been closed after the Search And Rescue teams' departure from Port-au-Prince.

Total of users: 25 users/ day
Data transmission consumption: 495 MB/day
Number of organisations: 14
Number of calls: 654

- At the Minustah camp (United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti). The camp hosted the whole humanitarian community: the United Nations agencies (Unicef, IOM, WFP, OCHA, FAO…), NGOs (Acted, Handicap International, Doctors without Borders, Red Cross…), the European Commission...  Since January 14th, TSF has opened a BGAN connection and a wireless access point for UN agencies and NGOs. Due to the continuous growth of rescue teams coming to Haiti, TSF teams opened a VSAT connection for OCHA's (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) and ECHO 's (European Commission's vsatHumanitarian Aid department) teams, and was also used by other international humanitarian organisations.

Throughout the duration of the mission, at least three IT technicians were permanently based in the camp providing continuous ICT support to the humanitarian community, from basic operations (setting up end-users wireless connections or printers, troubleshooting hardware or software issues, fixing viruses…) to advanced operations (setting up BGANs and VSATs, Wireless links, full office set up…). Due to the size of the camp, a helpdesk open from 7am to 10pm was created to provide immediate support to users.

Total number of users: 200 users/day
Number of organisations: +64
Data transmission consumption: 3170 MB/day


- At the OSOCC Centre in Jacmel

Since January 28th, an Internet and phone connection (BGAN, wifi AP) has been established for OCHA's team.

Services available: data (BGAN), wifi AP
Total of users: appr. 5 users/days (only OCHA)
Average consumption/day: 100 MB/day


lester- At the OSOCC Centre in Leogane

In Leogane, OCHA had set up a coordination platform hosting more than 21 organisations split into seven clusters (Food Assistance, Shelter & NFIs, WASH, Protection & Education, Logistics, Early Recovery, and Health). Like in Port-au-Prince, TSF supported the international community by installing a high speed connection (VSAT) for UN agencies and NGOs by the 8th February.
Services available: data, wifi AP, ICT support.
Total of users: average of 30 users/ day
Number of organisations : 13
Average consumption: 4 GB/day
List of agencies registered: WFP, Unicef, OCHA, Minustah, ACF, SOS, ECHO, Caritas, Care, Malteser, THW, ACTED, INTERSOS.


- TSF supporting local authorities

Following a request from the Haitian Prime Minister, Mr. Bellerive, TSF provided him with a satellite phone on the 14th January. Thanks to this satellite phone the government was able to communicate with the international community.  On the 15th, TSF installed a data connection (BGAN) in the building hosting the President, the Prime Minister, and the relocated ministries (DCPJ).


The national Haitian police had not had Internet access since the earthquake, until TSF installed a BGAN terminal on January 25th. The role of the police was very important in such a crisis, since they were in charge of securing the aid distributions.


TSF teams also ran assessments at the Cartographic Agency of Haiti and in the two buildings where the DPC (Civil Protection's Direction) was planning to relocate. 


- The French NGOs' camp, located in Port-au-Prince, at Sainte Rosa  de Lima's school, also benefited from a connection, opened on February 2nd. The request was placed by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was supporting the French NGOs response to the earthquake.

Total number of users: 15 users/day
Number of organisations: 3
Average consumption/day: 680 MB/day

haiti01Since the beginning of the disaster, coordination and rescue centres had had ceaseless activity and aid workers’ mobilisation was very strong all day-long. Beyond the set-up of high-speed data connections, TSF provided vital ICT support and technical assistance to the whole humanitarian community via helpdesks. TSF adapted its efforts and support according to the requests and needs of the humanitarian workers. TSF provided its telecom expertise to UNICEF to install a long-term connection at the MINUSTAH log base. Thanks to TSF, the international humanitarian community could coordinate its efforts and respond more efficiently to the earthquake.






In total, more than 100 humanitarian organisations (NGOs, United Nations agencies and local authorities) benefited from TSF’s services. Thus, 1,360 relief workers worked with TSF’s satellite installations, with an average of 180 users a day (peak of 320 users during the first two weeks of the emergency).

High speed data transmission consumption: 218 GO.



TSF humanitarian calling operations to the affected populations

77 calling centres opened from January 16th to February 22nd 2010.



TSF ran humanitarian calling operations, to offer affected families the possibility to reconnect with their loved ones in Haiti or abroad. Mobile teams moved on a daily basis to refugee camps all over the affected areas and opened a phoning centre (one centre per camp and per team). Between 3 and 5 refugee camps were covered every day.

Once the set up was completed, TSF offered ,to affected civilians, free calls via satellite phone services to anyone in the world. Those calling operations always received a very warm welcome. Indeed, in shelters, there was no electricity, mobile phones could not be charged and international calls were too expensive.


TSF covered highly affected districts in Petion-ville, in Delmas and in Port-au-Prince city centre. The team also deployed to Jacmel, Carrefour, Leogane, Lacul, Bainet, Gressier, Petit Goave, Grand Goave regions as well. 10,500 families had benefited from TSF free calls, which means that more than 60,000 people were reconnected (100% of the calls were international ones). The United States, Canada, Europe and the Dominican Republic were the main call destinations. 


Following the earthquake, thousands of people had been without news of their loved ones. An important need for communication was identified, people wanting to inform their relatives they were alive, to receive personalised assistance (mainly financial), to obtain mental support or to share important information about the situation. Haiti’s population being very much dispatched around the world (mainly in North America and Europe), families living abroad are considered an essential support because of their financial resources. 


Testimonies of the populations at Delmas 2, Port-au-Prince, February 2010.


Suzanne Esteval, a 78 year-old woman, is homeless, as are 1 million Haitian people. She can barely obtain food during the food distribution. Thanks to TSF, Suzanne could call her son who lives in the United States. With this first call since January 12th, she could ask him for financial assistance.

Esther Merveille, 37 years old, is 8 months pregnant. When the earthquake struck Haiti, she was at home. She managed to run away despite the pain in her back. Today, she is being sheltered with her 15 year-old daughter and her mother in the Verena school playground, where the Salvation Army operates. The free call offered by TSF allowed her to call her sister in the United States for two things she said: “to tell her about the events, to say that they are all alive and also to ask her for money”.

The first emergency response in Haiti ended on February 28th. TSF teams are considering future assessments to determine whether TSF post-emergency actions are needed.

Watch the video on TSF's mission in Haiti