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 Monday, 25 June 2007

Geneva, Jun 21 (Prensa Latina) The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is forging agreements to use satellite communications for improved global response in the face of natural disasters.

Natural calamities have spread mayhem around the world, severely impacting the lives of people and the environment.

The recent spate of tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, floods, landslides and forest fires have left behind a legacy of lost and broken lives, economic upheaval and sheer devastation.

This, says a ITU press release, leads to long-lasting impediments to sustainable development and global efforts for poverty reduction. The poor, especially those living in remote and isolated areas, are the most vulnerable and disaster-prone.

In 2006 alone, 21.8 million people succumbed to natural disasters, with 95 per cent of those killed residing in least developed countries.

Economic losses for USD 65 billion were recorded worldwide.

One of ITU s agreements provides for ICO Global Communications to give airtime on their F2 satellite for disaster prevention and effective response in the aftermath of natural disasters through both voice communications and other telecommunication applications, including telemedicine.

An hour's airtime will be provided every day for use through ITU to help countries maintain preparedness, provide early-warning information and elicit quick response.

In the event of a disaster, this time will be adjusted according to demand to facilitate rescue and rehabilitation efforts.

Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-general of ITU says "Satellite communication provides a platform to deliver a wide range of services and applications even to remote areas. In the digital age, we are able to provide an ICT lifeline to disaster victims and humanitarian personnel entrusted with coordinating rescue and relief operations, especially when terrestrial communications infrastructure is disrupted, overloaded or destroyed."

While ITU will manage and coordinate emergency telecommunications, the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) will provide content and manage the entrepreneurial skill development programme.

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