Instead of the Chasquis

Before there was email, before there were radios, before there were phones, there were Chasquis – teams of agile and highly trained runners who physically carried messages thousands of kilometres across the ancient Incan Empire to report, coordinate and communicate. Now, in place of the Incan Empire is the country of Peru, and instead of the Chasquis, there is the ICT Working Group.

Peru, a country rich with culture and history is also prone to natural disasters and internal unrest. A 2007 earthquake, measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale, wreaked havoc across the South-American nation and reinforced the importance of reliable telecommunications for humanitarian emergency response. In such an event, the way of the Chasquis would never be sufficient.

As global lead of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), the World Food Programme (WFP) has carried out an assessment of telecommunications services provided to the humanitarian community in Peru in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), local lead of the ICT Working Group, and the UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS). The objective of the mission was to assess the existing response capacity and requirements, and identify any operational shortfalls.

UN agencies in Peru are actively working together, coordinating and streamlining projects to achieve common goals such as preservation of peace and security, promotion of economic and social development, and respect for human rights. Recommendations were given to the ICT Working Group in Peru on how gaps could be filled in order to guarantee effective and efficient delivery of security telecommunication services to the humanitarian community. Similar assessment missions were also conducted by the ETC in Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama.

“The report highlights that the excellent results obtained from the mission were possible thanks to the unconditional, effective and efficient support from the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Peru, Mrs. Rebeca Arias, as well as the enthusiastic reaction to share information and ideas expressed by all agencies of the UN system in the country,” said Beatriz Yermenos, WFP Country Director, Peru.

Many recommendations made by the ETC mission have been already implemented by UNDSS with the support of Mrs. Arias, who is also the Delegated Officer (DO).

Once funding is identified, implementation of the suggestions will be carried out by UNICEF, UNDSS and WFP. The enhanced telecommunications services provided through the upgrade will ensure that when security and operational information needs to be transferred across Peru, the humanitarian community will have the means to do so, at a speed significantly faster than that of the Chasquis.