Unavailability of cellular services hampers relief work -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Unavailability of cellular services hampers relief work

By Muhammad Yasir

KARACHI: The relief and rescue activities have been affected severely by the unavailability of or poor telephony services in the flood-hit areas, where the network infrastructure has been damaged widely.

Officials of various agencies involved in rescue and relief activities said on Tuesday the connectivity problem is widespread particularly in many cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) and South Punjab, making it difficult for workers to communicate with their headquarters based in the metropolis. The telephonic communication plays a pivotal role of a bridge between the rescue and relief agencies’ camps and their deployed teams in far-flung areas in order to inform them about the urgent needs of the affectees and immediate line of action in case of floods warning.

The transportation of drinking water, foods, medicine and other essential items is impossible to carryout in many districts as the road links have been washed away by floods and the cellular phone remains the source of communication in this regard.

The unavailability of cellular phone services in many cities is due to the destruction of the flash floods, which damaged entirely and partially hundreds of sites. Besides, hundreds of cellular sites power connection has also been cut off whereas the unavailability of diesel in power generators also paralysed the system.

The complaints of lack of connectivity, frequent call-drop and slow network are still at large. The services of the Internet and tracking were also not good enough to use on the urgent need of communication and information. In the background interview with officials of various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) based in Karachi and Islamabad, it was told that the cellular phone lines are found dead when they attempt to call their camps set in different cities of KP and South Punjab. We have set up our relief camps in Swat and its nearby districts but faced communication problems owing to unavailability of cellular phone services in these areas, international NGO Saving Children official Ibrar Ahmed said. It is an arduous task to reach the affectees in far-flung areas of KP, he said and added that it is also difficult for NGO’s workers to continue relief operations in mountainous regions particularly in Swat, Kalam Bherain and Madian. He said the poor cellular phone services have delayed the relief operations as the good carriers take extra time to spot the camps operating in different regions.

As per assessment report issued by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT), there are more than 2,900 cellular sites, which are affected by floods and rains and later restored by cellular operators on the directives of the regulator. However, more than 300 sites have been destroyed in different cities as of August 18.
Source: Daily Times
Date:9/1/2010