Thuraya, the Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) subsidiary of the UAE-based global satellite company, Yahsat, announced on 31 March 2020 that it has welcomed the launch of the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), announced by the United Nations Secretary-General on 25 March. The company will use its expertise and apply lessons learned from the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreaks to help the global community implement the HRP and save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Global HRP is a co-ordinated US$2 billion humanitarian response to fight COVID-19 in 51 of the world’s poorest countries across, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America. It is led by UN agencies with support from other international organizations and NGOs with a humanitarian mandate.
Sulaiman Al Ali, Deputy CEO of Thuraya, said: “We fully support the COVID-19 Humanitarian Response Plan. Successful operations during emergencies depend on timely and proper communication among relief workers, donors and affected communities. In over 20 years of operation, and as a signatory of UN Crisis Connectivity Charter, Thuraya has always stood by the international community during crises. We work closely with organizations such as International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) to provide first responders and health missions a reliable satellite communications platform that is independent of terrestrial systems and available at all times.”
Providing ubiquitous coverage in more than 160 countries, Thuraya will enable always-on voice and internet connections for COVID-19 relief missions, especially in regions where telecommunications infrastructure is likely to be weak or unavailable. The company had a similar arrangement with ETC during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak, when it supplied voice and broadband links for the World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NetHope and other NGOs in the severely affected areas of Sierra Leone. Wireless connections were essential for health workers and relief agencies in different locations to stay connected and share instant updates, including emerging hotspots and rates of death and recovery. However, cellular networks could not handle the surge of user traffic. Only widespread use of satellite communications kept vital information flowing.
Thuraya also has a standing agreement with ITU to deploy its terminals for immediate assistance during emergencies and natural disasters. Its mobile satellite phones and broadband devices enable solutions that can help relief workers achieve maximum impact, while limiting their exposure to COVID-19. Devices such as Thuraya X5-Touch and Thuraya IP+ support telemedicine applications that offer timely advice and support to caregivers treating affected communities in remote locations.
Thuraya can augment coronavirus relief work in remote locations through telemedicine solutions such as teleconferencing kits and connected ambulances. The ambulance-to-hospital telemedicine system works over Thuraya’s IP broadband terminals and satellite network, connecting onboard wired and wireless medical devices to hospitals and diagnosing physicians. It transmits patients’ vital signs data in real time, enabling remote diagnosis and primary care that could greatly improve survival chances and levels of future health for patients. Moreover, relief agencies can use the solution to collect data on the spread of virus and visualize the pandemic, trace contacts and collect information to support health surveillance. It can also assist in coordinated efforts to deliver necessities such as vaccines and other medical supplies, or even satellite communications equipment.
Reliable communications are urgently required where the threat from COVID-19 is greatest. The social distancing strategies introduced by governments across whole populations are expected to place severe strain on cellular networks and internet traffic. By increasing capacity over hotspots, Thuraya will ensure service continuity, even when there is a sudden surge in demand from remote medical setups, healthcare institutions and NGOs.