How technology is changing disaster relief

When the British government delivered emergency aid to people fleeing Islamic militants in northern Iraq last month, one of its primary concerns was how the refugees might charge their mobile phones.

Alongside tents and drinking water, RAF planes dropped more than 1,000 solar-powered lanterns attached to chargers for all types of mobile handsets to the stranded members of the Yazidi religious community below.

It is the first time the lanterns have been airdropped in such a relief effort, but humanitarian workers say it is part of growing efforts to develop technology designed to make a difference in disaster zones.

Sunlite lantern and phone charger More than 1,000 Sunlite solar powered lanterns and phone chargers were airdropped in northern Iraq


In 2010, Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen, a computer systems researcher at Flinders University in Australia, was driving to work in his car when he first heard radio reports of the devastation of the Haiti earthquake, more than 10,000 miles away.

With roads blocked, infrastructure reduced to rubble and mobile networks down, he realised something needed to be done, and quickly.



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