The ITU has forged an agreement with ICO Global Communications and the Commonwealth Business Council to use satellite communications for improved global response in the face of natural disasters.
Under the agreement, ICO will provide airtime on its F2 satellite for disaster prevention and effective response in the aftermath of natural disasters through both voice communications and other telecom 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.
"The partnership that we have established with ICO Global Communications and the Commonwealth Business Council is an important milestone towards ITU's effort to save human life," said ITU secretary general Dr Hamadoun TourÃ©.
"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," he added.
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, imposing long-lasting impediments to sustainable development and global efforts for poverty reduction.
In 2006 alone, 21,800 people succumbed to natural disasters, with 95% of those killed residing in least developed countries. Some $65 billion of economic loss was recorded worldwide.