UNFPA and Phone Companies fight Ebola

Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, Country Representative (right) signing the agreement with Sudipto Chowdhury, Airtel Managing Director.
Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, Country Representative (right) signing the agreement with Sudipto Chowdhury, Airtel Managing Director.

On Friday 13th June, 2014 UNFPA in a first time partnership with mobile phone companies Africell (SL) and Airtel (SL) signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the provision of mobile phones, SIM cards, Closed User Groups (CUGs) SMS and call services to enhance contact tracing of the Ebola outbreak.

Each company donated 150 phones to be used for Ebola contact tracing and surveillance along with six months free airtime. The phones are equipped with a database to capture and store information to be relayed to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. The feature CUG allows unlimited free calls between these phones.

 

The phones were handed over to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation on Saturday, 14th June, 2014. The then Minister of Health, Hon. Miatta Kargbo compared the mobile phones to ammunition provided to soldiers on a battlefield and was grateful to Africell and Airtel in joining the fight to stop the virus that is plaguing Sierra Leone.

 

UNFPA supported the training of 300 Community Health Workers (CHWs) who are utilising the phones in the Kailahun District. The Managing Directors of Africell Shadi Gerjawi and Airtel Sudipto Chowdhury both asserted that they felt a responsibility to Sierra Leone and their customers, and wanted to be part of the solution to the Ebola crisis.

 

Sierra Leone mobile phone company Skytel also provided 30 mobile phones to also be used for Ebola contact tracing and surveillance. Managing Director Alie Skaikay has offered that he will be willing to offer 30 more if needed.