Refugees and Connectivity

Ongoing conflicts around the Middle East and North Africa region have resulted in the displacement of more than 10 million people in Zain’s operating markets. In response, Zain is implementing a variety of initiatives that target the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in its markets.


Mobile services for Syrian refugees

Zain has created several commercial packages that are intended to facilitate connectivity, which is much needed amongst refugee and IDP populations. Most notable of these packages is the Tawasol Line offered by Touch in Lebanon, which offers discounted rates for Syrian refugees for voice, SMS and data, as well as discounts for calls and messages to Syria. With over one million Syrian refugees hosted in Lebanon, there is high demand for the service, which was launched in 2015. By the end of 2016, this service had attracted over 47,000 subscribers.

Zain has created several commercial packages that are intended to facilitate connectivity, which is much needed amongst refugee and IDP populations.

In Jordan, the Syria-Sim service was developed by Zain Jordan, in collaboration with UNHCR, providing unlimited minutes for calls between refugees and the UNHCR in order to support greater coordination between the two parties. Many refugees are unable to access basic information that can improve their circumstances, accordingly the service provides an ease of communication that can lead to an improvement in their welfare. The service continues to date, and has attracted around 49,000 refugees.



Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives

Zain has also spearheaded a number of CSR initiatives to improve the welfare of the displaced. The most comprehensive of these was the IDP Assistance Project, a multilateral initiative launched in 2015 by Zain Iraq, involving the distribution of food, clothing and other supplies to around 19,700 IDPs. This included food baskets for 2,500 people, 4000 iftar meals, 700 bottles of baby milk, 1000 sets of clothing, and 100 air coolers. The project also addressed the health concerns of IDPs through collaboration with two specialized NGOs, Dary and Iraq Builder. Through this partnership, medical tents were established with the objective of providing medicine, medical consultancy and psychological care to IDPs.


The IDP Assistance Project involved the distribution of food, clothing and other supplies to around 19,700 IDPs in Iraq.


Another component of the IDP Assistance project was the Ahlna Campaign through which 104 Refugee Housing Units (RHUs) were developed, in collaboration with the Refugee Housing Unit Company, UNHCR and the IKEA Foundation. RHUs are innovative shelters, constructed from waterproof, sun and flame retardant materials around a steel frame – capable of housing up to five people. Each unit includes a solar energy system that powers a lamp and mobile phone charger, as well as an innovative ground anchor which allows it to be built on uneven or sloped terrain.

Zain Iraq has also been supporting the educational needs of displaced children, working alongside UNICEF to establish Child Friendly Spaces (CFS). These consist of enclosed spaces for children comprising playgrounds and areas designated for learning. The children that attend CFS are aged between 3 and 17. They are given care, education, health awareness and psychological support for five days every week. Over the course of 2015, more than 800 children attended the CFS and in 2016 more than 2,000 families benefitted.

In 2016, Zain Iraq also supported a project delivering workshops to 80 displaced women to teach them sewing and tailoring skills to improve their employment opportunities.


Innovate for Refugees

In June 2016, Zain partnered with MIT EF Pan Arab to launch the Innovate for Refugees Initiative – a competition intended to promote innovative entrepreneurial businesses, providing tech-driven solutions for improving the livelihoods and overall situation for displaced persons in the region.


The ‘Innovate for Refugees’ stream included over 1,600 applicants, with 6 finalists that each received a prize of $20,000 to further their projects.



Reuniting refugee families and fundraising initiatives

In 2014, Zain launched a Family Reconnection Project, in collaboration with REFUNITE and Ericsson, which utilizes ICT in order to reconnect displaced persons that have been separated from their loved ones. The award winning project leverages ICT in a simple yet innovative way to help displaced persons in Jordan and South Sudan reconnect with their missing family members. Field analysis carried out by REFUNITE reveals that 80% of refugee families encountered in Jordan were looking for missing family members; highlighting the urgency of delivering the service. In 2015, 1,200 individuals registered for the service in South Sudan. Since its launch in Iraq (March 2016) 9,518 refugees are registered.

SMS short codes were used by Zain Saudi Arabia in 2015 to enable customers to donate money to charities in Syria that support those facing difficult circumstances such as displacement. Over USD 125,738 was donated in total.


Extending mobile coverage to refugee camps in South Sudan

In 2013, Zain South Sudan successfully rolled out mobile telecommunications coverage to the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan. The project, undertaken in partnership with the Vodafone Foundation’s Instant Network Program, provides the telecommunications access to the more than 74,000 refugees inhabiting Yida, as well as the 3,000 UN and non-UN personnel stationed there while also benefitting 3,200 locals. Access to mobile communications in the camp helps to ease the plight of the refugee inhabitants and helps aid workers coordinate their activities more effectively. In November 2016, this project expanded to Ajuangthok camp in Upper Nile state of South Sudan, providing coverage to 50,000 refugees, UN and non-UN personnel, and the local population.

“The project provides telecommunications access to the more than 74,000 refugees inhabiting Yida, as well as the 3,000 UN and non-UN personnel stationed there while also benefitting than 3,200 locals.”



Tripartite collaboration: Connecting Syrian urban refugees in Jordan to the internet

Zain Group, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees (UNHCR) and Facebook, signed a deal to provide Wi-Fi connectivity (free and high speed) for refugees in Jordan for the next five years. Using UNHCR’s expertise and knowledge about where refugees are located, Zain is able to provide Wi-Fi services to key areas across the Kingdom of Jordan. Phase One of the project is providing connectivity to four Community Centres in Sahab, Karak, Alkhaldyeh and Tafileh, where an average of 1,700 users per month are benefitting from this service. Phase two is connecting an additional six Community Centres in Ma’an, Madaba, Aqaba, Southern Shouneh, Jerash and South Azraq, with 21,000 users/month on average benefiting from this service.

Providing connectivity is extremely impactful, not only does it connect refugees to their loved ones but allows them to stay connected to the world and access information related to major issues such health, economic and educational assistance. This initiative is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular goal 17: “strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development”. This partnership leverages on Zain’s core competencies which is providing connectivity, establishing a strong tripartite collaboration, and addressing a harsh crisis at the same time.



UN Donation Portal – #ZainWithRefugees

#ZainWithRefugees is a joint initiative between UNHCR and Zain that aims to assist and support Syrian refugees who are facing a harsh winter out of their homes. The UNHCR donation portal campaign aims to collect donations in order to raise awareness on refugee emergencies. The Portal includes a social media aspect whereby Zain raises awareness about the plight of Syrian refugees through its social media channels, as well as a bulk SMS campaign through which all of Zain’s customers receive information about the issue.



Donate a Jacket Campaign

Zain Kuwait hosted a charitable campaign in Zain Kuwait’s Headquarters that aims to collect used, cleaned, and re-packaged clothes from the employees to distribute to Syrian refugees in cooperation with Kuwait Relief Society. A total of 15.3 tons of clothes have been collected to date.


Iraq IDP Information Centre

In cooperation with UNOPS, UNHCR, Office of the Resident Coordinator, World Health Organization, OCHA, World Food Programme; Zain Iraq launched a call centre/hotline in order to provide displaced populations across Iraq with relevant information on humanitarian assistance. Zain Iraq started this initiative in September 2015 and provided the IDP Information Centre with the hotline. In addition to setting up the hotline, Zain Iraq helped raise awareness by sending out bulk SMS to Zain Iraq’s entire customer base.  In 2016, 54,461 calls were made seeking help from the IDP Information Centre.

“In 2016, 54,461 calls were made seeking help from the IDP Information Centre.” 



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