SMS initiative seeks to reconnect survivors of Typhoon Yolanda

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Refugees United (REFUNITE), a technology-based non-profit organization, has teamed up with Smart Communications and Ericsson to connect victims of natural disasters in the Philippines via SMS.

Ericsson, Smart, and REFUNITE has announced the launch of a new family tracing and reconnection service in the Philippines, which the companies say, is the first of its kind in Asia.

The new reconnection service is expected to deliver hope to Filipino families separated by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

Seated from left: Orlando B Vea, chief wireless advisor of Smart Communications and Elie Hanna, Ericsson Philippines and Pacific Islands president and country manager.  Standing from left: Ramon Isberto, public affairs group head, PLDT and Smart Communications; and Anthony Valdez, VP- key account manager at Ericsson Philippines
Seated from left: Orlando B Vea, chief wireless advisor of Smart Communications and Elie Hanna, Ericsson Philippines and Pacific Islands president and country manager. Standing from left: Ramon Isberto, public affairs group head, PLDT and Smart Communications; and Anthony Valdez, VP- key account manager at Ericsson Philippines

The typhoon hit the Philippines in November 2013, causing large-scale damage and displacement. Nearly a year after Haiyan, one of the most powerful typhoons on record in recent years, it is estimated that there are still around 4 million displaced persons in the Visayas region.

REFUNITE is a mobile and Web platform that empowers families to search for missing relatives by sending an SMS through any mobile and web-enabled device. More than 350,000 people have already registered on the global platform.

With support from Ericsson and Smart, the mobile service will soon be accessible to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

By the end of 2014, families will be able to search, reconnect, and communicate with missing loved ones in the aftermath of Haiyan. This will also benefit Filipino victims of emergencies and disasters in the future.

Smart will create awareness on the REFUNITE family reconnection platform through SMS campaigns and/or cell broadcasts. The joint response will be piloted in Tacloban City, which was among those hardest-hit by Typhoon Haiyan, and then scaled to other regions.

Orlando B. Vea, chief wireless advisor of Smart, said: ?This is an innovative mobile service that is very relevant to the challenges that we face in the Philippines. Every year, natural and man-made disasters displace people and separate family members. An SMS-based service that enables people to search for their missing loved ones will be very useful. That is why we are happy to work with our partners to bring this service to the Philippines.?

REFUNITE said it aims to connect families separated by war, conflict and natural disaster. REFUNITE serves the world’s 52 million forcibly displaced people. The platform can be accessed through mobile and web, and is supported by a coalition of mobile operators in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

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