On the 4th of December 2014, a fire broke out at the Maldives Water and Sewerage Company Generator Unit located on the island capital Malé resulting in the cutting off of drinking water to over 150,000 people.
Whilst government bodies acted quickly to distribute bottled water, supplies were limited and stocks quickly dwindled. With a critical water shortage affecting a third of the nation’s population, a State of Emergency was declared by the Government of the Maldives.
As the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) began to work to distribute available water in Malé, water shipments were dispatched from China, India and Sri Lanka, as well as via Sri Lanka Airlines. With long travel times by sea, only a limited supply viable by air, and distribution challenges once in the Maldives, it was estimated that the population would struggle to access safe drinking water for the following week. Key services such as hospitals were also put at high risk.
As news of the crisis broke, the business continuity management (BCM) team within Ooredoo Maldives met. Given that a critical utility had suffered a major outage and a national crisis had been declared by the government, the group followed BCM protocol and the internal disaster response business continuity plan was activated.
Over the following days, Ooredoo Maldives played an important role in the water shortage crisis, above and beyond that of providing communication services. Other than some minor impact to the network caused by congestion, this crisis posed little risk to the continuation of the operator’s core business. Whilst this was the case, an understanding of the potential supportive role the network could play in the response led Ooredoo Maldives to take actions despite the lack of obvious business incentive. Many in the Maldives were surprised to find Ooredoo at the forefront of response, especially in providing Corporate Social Responsibility and crisis support above technological solutions. Whilst the operator approached the crisis from a humanitarian point of view Ooredoo Maldives have seen this role shift the perception of the brand within the country, with the human values of Ooredoo Group recognised, and strengthening its position as a brand that cares and is there for the community in times of crisis. The willingness of Ooredoo employees to volunteer has also had a positive impact internally, continuing to strengthen the culture of community and social responsibility and at the same time highlighting that Ooredoo is a part of the community in which it operates.
Humanitarian Connectivity Charter
In March 2015, Ooredoo Group became one of the founding signatories of the Humanitarian Connectivity Charter. The Charter, an initiative launched by the GSMA Disaster Response programme, is a set of principals aimed at the mobile industry and focused on maintaining access to connectivity and communications for affected populations in times of crisis. The initial signatories of the Charter collectively represent over one billion subscribers in 35 countries.
Whilst the activities of Ooredoo Maldives took place before the signing of the Charter, this response acts as an example of the type of initiative signatories aim to undertake, in line with the Charter principals of supporting those affected by crisis and disaster through access to communication and information.
More information on the Humanitarian Connectivity Charter can be found here.
The full report on Ooredoo’s response to the water crisis can be downloaded here.