Refugee Crisis Relief

During the months of August and September 2015, the refugee crisis in Europe began to spike. With record numbers of Syrians fleeing their crisis-stricken country and making the journey across the Mediterranean to Europe, the Balkan countries as well as Turkey and Greece were beginning to become overwhelmed.  Disaster Tech Lab identified two crucial needs in the crisis specifically on the island of Lesbos, Greece: IT infrastructure to support NGO and refugee communications and emergency medical care. 

The advance IT team arrived on September 18, and spent the first few days assessing the situation on the ground and determining needs, camp by camp, and meeting with the UN to coordinate. Two newly built camps had no pre-existing facilities so the Disaster Tech Lab IT team got to work, designing a system to provide both WiFi internet service for the public (refugees) and a separate, secure network for the other responding NGOs, as well as providing VoIP services across the network. The lack of pre-existing infrastructure and the hilly location of these camps proved challenging, and required the team to erect 6 meter high posts on which to mount the equipment, as well as ensure that all equipment is solar powered. Their plan is to connect the two camps via a wireless point-to-point link, with a repeater between the two camps, to ensure a seamless network.  As of October 8, the whole network has been designed and the team is beginning installation of the solar-powered equipment while they await vDSL service. While they conduct this work, they are also setting up WiFi service on the Northern shore (the major landing point for refugees) to improve communications and cross-organizational coordination. Disaster Tech Lab has been appointed the lead organization for ICT and Communications for 3 of the 4 major refugee facilities on Lesbos, and is planning work on the Greek island of Kos in the near future. 

Meanwhile, the medical team got to work on the Northern shores, near the villages Skala and Molnyos, where many of the refugee boats were landing. The main medical aid effort is reported to be focused in the camps, which are 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from the landing point. Many refugees coming to Lesbos have hypothermia and other illnesses as a result of the difficult trip, as well as older injuries that needed to be addressed as a part of general emergency first aid. Approximately 1000-1500 people are arriving each day, and the flow of people is not expected to recede, so the medical team are currently working to establish a more permanent medical post in the area.

Disaster Tech Lab was featured in a recent Mashable article, highlighting their work here and elsewhere in the world.