21 Nov 2018
The broadcasting division of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) –Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) – has recently donated building equipment, including solar panels, to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Uganda, offering new housing and life-saving electricity to the Bidi Bidi refugee settlement.
Bidi Bidi is home to over 200,000 of the 1.1 million refugees currently living in the country. The OBS donation allowed for the construction of 64 housing units and storage facilities for the settlement and provided a new solar power system for two local hospitals – the Midigo and Yumbe Health Centres. The Midigo hospital in particular had until then been operating on a single generator that had to be turned off at night, affecting the level of care that could be offered to the large number of patients.
“This support of power has come at a time of critical need,” said Patrick Onzimuke, Public Health Specialist and Deputy Head of Midigo Hospital. “A lot of machines which are currently redundant can now be used. Our capacity of service will be vastly improved, and we will save many more lives – we have lost many babies due to a lack of oxygen alone. Our freezers for blood banks, our ultrasound machine, our incubator, our x-ray machine, our anaesthesia machine - they can all now be used with the new solar power. We are very grateful, and it will go a long way to saving lives.”
The IOC is a long-time supporter of the UNHCR, and has made sustainability one of the three pillars of the strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement –Olympic Agenda 2020.
Fully embracing this commitment, OBS introduced a new modular panel system for its broadcaster studio and office space in the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, with the aim of re-using it at future Games editions to reduce construction waste. After successful implementation in Rio, the panels were shipped to the Republic of Korea, where they were re-used in the construction of the IBC in PyeongChang. Today, most of them are being stored for use at Tokyo 2020.
As a number of the panels could not be used again after the PyeongChang 2018 Games due to sizing differences in the next host city, OBS endeavoured to find another purpose for them. OBS and representatives from the UNHCR identified geographical areas most in need and developed a plan to transport the equipment to Uganda, together with a new solar panel system to avoid the use of mobile energy generators in the newly-built housing.
“The IOC’s support to refugees is essential for improving lives,” UNHCR Representative for Uganda Joel Boutroue said. “The housing units that the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), has provided in northern Uganda, will help the UNHCR and our partners in our work alongside the thousands of refugees living in settlements.”
To document the entire project, the Olympic Channel – an IOC initiative dedicated to promoting the ideals of the Olympic Movement – produced a video featuring the OBS team at work and offering an insight into life in the Bidi Bidi settlement. They also captured the delivery of two trucks loaded with furniture, stationery and footballs donated by OBS to seven schools in the settlement.
“We were honoured to be able to contribute to this project and to see the legacy from Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018 have a truly global impact,” said Yiannis Exarchos, CEO of OBS.