Caught in the midst of horrific conflict, more than 11 million Syrian refugees are displaced: 7.5 million have been forced from their homes in search of safety and security. More than 4 million – mostly women and children – have fled the country entirely to neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. More than half of the country’s pre-war population needs urgent humanitarian assistance and care.
Communications are also critical to help refugees find assistance, connect with loved ones, and stay abreast of news updates. While many Syrian refugees are fortunate to have a mobile phone, technical infrastructure is lacking. As a result, refugees do not have access at the very time when it is most urgently needed to navigate the long and perilous journey to safety.
NetHope joined efforts with over 20 international development organizations to Identify key ICT-related needs related to the Syria crisis. Chief among them: cell phone connectivity and charging along migration routes and in refugee camps; cyber security; a central information portal for refugees; and e-learning for young refugees.
To meet these needs, NetHope mobilized its network of technical specialists to support responding organizations in the region and refugees wherever they are located. This support has included Wi-Fi hotspots and charging stations in camps and along the migration route; donated Microsoft software to ensure critical data security; critical Wi-Fi network and data security designed/architected by Cisco; and an online information hub for refugees, powered by Google.
Between November 2015 and December 2016, the NetHope-led Syrian Refugee Connectivity Alliance installed internet and charging station solutions in 76 refugee camps in Greece, Slovenia and Serbia, with the majority in Greece. An estimated 500,000 users have benefitted from the services.
Primary usage of the internet has been to connect with family and friends; asylum-seeking; community integration; language-learning and news-gathering. This effort was supported by Cisco, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and The Patterson Foundation.
Along with continued work toward cyber security and connectivity solutions, NetHope launched Project Reconnect with Google.org, an initiative providing 25,000 managed Google Chromebooks to nonprofit organizations supporting refugees in Germany.