Good Health

Life-saving SMS flood alerts in life-threatening SOS situations

Taduwa village, Nepal


Monsoon mayhem

Nepal’s 2017 monsoon season, which takes place every year between June and September, was the worst in recent memory. Many districts were either submerged or hit by landslides, leaving villages and communities stranded without food, water or electricity. Overall one third of the country was flooded, killing160 people. A total of 1.5 million people were affected, with over 400,000 being forced out of their homes. The International Centre for Climate Change and Development has stated that these floods have been made worse by climate change.

Danger zones

As devastating as this situation was, it could have been much worse. Since 2015, the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), working with mobile operator Ncell, have been using an early warning system to protect citizens who live in areas most at risk from flooding.

Life-saving texts

The system is very simple. Water gauge stations measure water levels and then send the real time data to the DHM’s flood forecasting team who interpret the information. If a flooding threat is imminent, text message alerts are then sent to those who live downstream of major rivers. Citizens in these disaster prone locations then have enough time to get to safety. When water levels return to normal they receive another text letting them know it is safe to return home. Ncell further supported customers affected by the disaster with free texts and calls.

A promising forecast

A total of 42 areas are now protected by the system. In August 2017, 50,000 text alerts were sent to people living in the flood-prone Babai river area, resulting in more than 4700 people being safely evacuated from their homes. Ncell are providing connectivity to a further 250 Hydrometric stations in Nepal to enhance the early warning system and save thousands more lives in the future.

“The water swept everything away from inside my home except for the beds. If I had been there my children would have died, myself too, I know this. At first we hesitated because the flood did not seem too bad but within a day everything was destroyed. I am so glad we trusted the text message warning, it is the only reason I am alive today.”

Niti Shrestha , Taduwa village

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Nepal

Nepal 28.3949° N, 84.1240° E

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