Helping to respond to the Horn of Africa Crisis

Editor’s note: Cross-posted from the Microsoft on the Issues blog.

Brad Smith, General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

It has been more than two months since famine was declared in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti, leaving 12.4 million people in need of emergency aid. Every day, more than 1,500 famine-stricken Somalis arrive in the world’s largest refugee camp in north-eastern Kenya. According to the United Nations, the Dadaab Refugee camp designed for 90,000 people is now home to nearly half a million people.

To put this crisis in perspective, the number of severely famine-stricken people is higher than the combined numbers affected by the South Asia tsunami and South Asia earthquakes of 2005, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

On the Microsoft on the Issues Blog for Africa, we often focus on the many opportunities present in Africa, the amazing feats and accomplishments of the African people, and how technology positively impacts the continent. But Africa, and the world community, face a humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, and I wanted to take a moment to talk about Microsoft’s commitment to help respond to the crisis.

Our response

Technology is our business and it also underpins how we try and contribute to the communities we serve. We are committed to using technology to help respond to this crisis. Today in Nairobi, I announced that we are extending our disaster response efforts with a number of partner organizations working in the region. We are committing to deliver support to the value of more than $4 million, including:

- Monetary donations to NGOs working in the relief zone.

- Donating technical solutions and support to lead response organizations to improve the effectiveness of aid flows and monitoring, which can significantly improve the overall relief effort. Over the last 30 days, we have been working with IGOs and NGOs in the region to develop a sustainable model for their disaster response mechanisms. Our efforts include:

  • Working with the International Organization of Migration (IOM) to develop an IT system to assist their work with refugees in the region. This is similar to the solution that was successfully implemented by Microsoft and the IOM in Egypt for their work with Libyan refugees.
  • Supporting the relief efforts of the NGOs and UN agencies working in the region by bringing broadband Internet connectivity to the Dadaab refugee camp in a partnership with NetHope.
  • Collaborating with NetHope to donate software and IT training to the 32 NGO members operating in the region, with a focus on improving the effectiveness of their work.

- Providing access to technology, education and learning opportunities for refugees. Examples include:

  • Partnering with international NGOs in the zone, including UN refugee agency UNCHR, the Red Cross, IOM,Right to Play and NetHope, to assist in the establishment of three UNHCR technology centers in the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps. This effort is intended to improve the education and learning opportunities for young people in these camps.
  • Working with the UNHCR to deliver the Community Technology Access (CTA) Program inside the Kakuma refugee camp, aimed at empowering refugees by providing access to technology and connectivity.
  • Providing children and young people with access to sports and recreational facilities in partnership with the international NGO, Right to Play.

We have an ongoing commitment to Kenya and East Africa – and are not new to the challenges facing the region. These latest efforts combine our long-term commitment with the immediate disaster response needs of the communities at risk.

There are so many positive developments across the continent and so much progress being made. However, the world collectively needs to respond to the crisis in the Horn of Africa and help address the terrible suffering of so many people. We are committed to playing our part.

If you would like to help, we recommend working with, or donating to, one of the following organizations:

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