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Vodafone Foundation providing instant mobile coverage for disaster areas

Areas cut off by war and natural disasters have received a lifeline in the form of an instant communication initiative set up by Vodafone.

Vodafone Foundation, the philanthropic branch of the telecom group, established Instant Network last year and has since provided vital communications to emergency response teams and those affected by disaster around the world.

In the past 18 months the initiative has been deployed to 20 countries, including the Philippines, Kenya and South Sudan.

"When you are one of thousands of people who are completely cut off", Vodafone Foundation director Andrew Dunnett said, "one of the first things you want to do is communicate to your loved ones that you have actually survived."

The Instant Network is comprised of a kit that can fit into three suitcases weighing 100kg in total. It consists of a laptop, an antenna and a base transceiver box that relies on petrol generators for power.

Easily portable, the cases can be transported by telecom engineers to areas where telecommunications have been disrupted in order to establish a network. Whereas a traditional mobile phone tower could take months to build, this DIY version can establish a signal in less than 40 minutes.

When parts of Northern Kenya were struck by famine last February, Instant Network deployed a small team of engineers to a Red Cross clinic in Kaikor.

Mark Lominito, a nursing supervisor at the camp, said, "We've had an improvement in the life of the people of Kaikor, not only in their health, but in the economy. Families are able to get money sent back from relatives in the city. By passing money between phones, villagers can buy household appliances or food for the day."