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Vodafone’s Humanitarian Response in support of Ukrainian refugees

04 Mar 2022Inclusion
10 minute read

Last updated: 21st June 2022

These are distressing times in Europe. Over 5 million Ukrainians have fled their homes and crossed international borders to find safety. Our support for our customers and communities to alleviate some of the suffering of those caught up in this tragedy is listed below.

The humanitarian part of our comprehensive response is coordinated under Vodafone Foundation, in line with our policy for all charitable activities to be led and funnelled by our Foundations. At the same time, it involves many areas of our business, and by many colleagues across our organisation.

Free Roaming[1]

We have still some Vodafone customers, from various local markets, in Ukraine. Therefore:

  • In all of our operations across Europe, Vodafone are offering free roaming for those customers.
Free Calls & Texts[2]

Some of our customers and colleagues have families and friends in Ukraine. Therefore:

  • Vodafone is providing free calls and text messages to Ukraine.[3]
Employment Opportunities
  • Vodafone is offering fast-track employment opportunities for those displaced by the crisis. Ukrainians, or other nationals, who have fled the country to find safety can find out more information on the Vodafone Careers page. We’ve already made offers across our Group and _VOIS operations, UK, Germany and Hungary and are looking forward to welcoming our new team members. For those that we cannot offer a suitable role to, free online language training will be provided, thanks to Speexx, one of our training partners.
Free Sims & donations of recycled Handsets

Refugees coming into Europe sometimes lack phones, or fear that they would face high cost of calling for the prolonged period of time that they are likely to stay in our markets. Therefore:

  • Vodafone signed roaming agreements with two of Ukraine’s operators to avoid these operators coming under undue financial pressure due to the roaming offers that they offer their customers fleeing to Europe, until such time that their customers have shifted to local SIMs.
  • Vodafone Czech Republic provided 1.5K prepaid SIMs with credit of 500 CZK for refugees in-country and also provided a further 10K SIMs with 200 CZK of credit and 3GB data. An appeal for the donation of unused phones resulted in 3K donations at retail stores. Vodafone Czech Republic added a prepaid SIM for each phone to the value of €20 each. Unusable handsets are being recycled, and funds raised donated to support the relief effort.
  • Vodafone Germany has distributed 180k SIM cards on the Vodafone network free of charge to refugees. 160k were distributed to NGOs and from central points in Berlin, Hanover, Munich, Leipzig and Dresden. Now switched to shops where another 4,000 SIM cards are registered every week.
  • Vodafone Greece donated 3 handsets and SIMs to the Lifeguard Hellas Voluntary Dissemination Team to support their mission to Ukraine.
  • Vodafone Greece Foundation is working with UNHCR Greece to activate 5,000 SIM cards that will be donated to Ukrainian refugees who are arriving in Greece, providing Vodafone network free of charge (20GB + 150 minutes to Europe + 40 minutes to Ukraine & 300 minutes to Vodafone).
  • Vodafone Hungary handed out an estimated 5,000K SIMs on the Ukrainian border at Beregsurany.
  • Vodafone Ireland established a presence at Dublin Airport in a welcome area for refugees as part of a collective industry response including all operators and MVNOs. Up to 5K free SIMs provisioned for those arriving. The SIMs were preloaded with 3 months Vodafone X free calls to Ukraine and an allocation of international calls for EU so people can call those displaced around the EU.
  • Vodafone Italy prepared 200 SIM cards for Ukrainian refugees arriving in Italy and donated 200 mobile phones to the association ‘I Bambini dell'Est’ which has operated in the Ukrainian territory for more than 10 years. They also provided Ukrainian charity ‘Mama I nemovlya’ (Mother & Child) with up to 1.2K SIM cards with free data and 200 mobile phones to enable refugees to stay connected.
  • Vodafone Romania distributed 48.6k SIMs in critical spots at the border, as well as in refugee camps (Siret, Sighet, Isaccea). These were configured with 30 international minutes bolt-on towards Ukraine, 200 international mobile minutes/SEE, 10GB national data, 100 national minutes, unlimited on-net minutes (for 28 days).
  • Vodafone Spain provided 5,000 SIM cards to refugees in-country by NGOs and non-profit organisations, containing 60GB data for 6 months.
  • Vodafone UK is offering free connectivity to 200,000 refugees from Ukraine through its charities.connected initiative. It has also launched a Tech Appeal for refugees with a donation of 3,000 smartphones and 1,000 portable power banks, and is working with Refugee Council to distribute them.
  • Vodafone Ziggo has made 12,000 prepaid SIM cards available to Ukrainian refugees in the Netherlands, containing 6 GB and €20 call credit. These are distributed via the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland.
Connectivity / Free Charging / Free Wi-Fi:

Refugees coming into Europe often have immediate needs to contact loved ones, access the internet and charge their phones. Therefore:  

  • Vodafone Group Foundation deployed 14 Instant Network volunteers from UK, NL, GR, PT, RO and HU to Hungary and Romania to provide connectivity and charging for those on the move, including as part of the Instant Network Emergency Response programme, including:
  • Established Instant Wi-Fi and Instant Charge in 5 locations in Hungary and Romania to connect over 13.5k users. In Romania, Instant charge was deployed at 2 transit centres near the border in Siret (a football stadium with a unit to charge 60 phones simultaneously and UNICEF containers for women and children with capacity for 20 phones).
  • 10 x 30 port Instant Charge units donated to UNHCR in Moldova, and 5 units to World Food Programme (WFP leader of Emergency Telecommunication Cluster) in Poland.
  • Additional equipment and staff remain on standby to keep refugees from Ukraine connected, as the Foundation explores further opportunities to support education for displaced children using INS and Connected Education initiatives.
  • Vodafone Germany provided 1.5K GigaCubes to refugee homes which enable WLAN via mobile communications which up to 200 people can use simultaneously. 2K powerbanks were also prepared for Laukenmann, Arens and Fettes.
  • Vodafone Hungary and Vodafone Romania deployed Cells on Wheels at key border crossing points by to provide connectivity for those in the area.
  • Vantage Towers made co-locations to sites in neighbouring countries (Romania and Hungary) easier and quicker for the authorities and MNOs, especially in the border area. It also deployed mobile towers where needed (border, train stations,) at the request of the authorities and/or MNOs and taking part in deploying DAS for Wi-Fi.
Donations: 

Refugees have many pressing needs, outside our area of expertise. The sheer number of refugees from Ukraine also puts European authorities, NGOs, and other humanitarian organisations under serious strain. Vodafone Foundation has a long-standing partnership with UNHCR. Therefore:

Charitable Cash Donations:
  • Vodafone Group Foundation donated €500k from its Humanitarian Fund to UNHCR and local Vodafone Foundations in Czech, Romania, and Hungary. It also match funded employee donations over 2 weeks, raising over $100k.  
  • Vodafone Czech Republic donated €78,000 to support the NGO People in Need.
  • Vodafone Hungary activated the 1357 National Charity Donation line for customers; €100k was donated by 1st March 2022. Vodafone Hungary Foundation split the funding from Vodafone Group Foundation between Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta and Hungarian Interchurch Aid.
  • Vodafone Italy Foundation donated €200K to Croce Rossa Italiana (for basic necessities in Ukraine e.g. water, blankets, and medicines) and Maria Francesca Rava Foundation (to support paediatric hospitals in Ukraine).
  • Vodafone Spain Foundation donated €25K to Save the Children to support children and families in Ukraine.
  • Vodafone Romania donated:
  • €15,000 to Asociatia Medici pentru Romania (Doctors for Romania Association)
  • €21,000 to the Red Cross and National Department for Emergency Situations
  • €30,000 to Funaria Mereu Aproape to build a refugee camp for 240 refugees near the border
  • €10,000 to Jesuit Refugee Service to cover unmet and urgent needs for accommodation, transport, food and hygiene products
  • €40,000 to Association for Community Relations’ ‘Hope for Ukraine Fund’
  • Vantage Towers donated €25,000 to UNHCR, €12,500 to Interchurched Aid in Hungary, and €12,500 to the Romanian Red Cross.
  • Vodafone UK is match funding donations to the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal Fund, with a minimum contribution of £250,000 from Vodafone Foundation. To date, the total stands at £371K. Anyone who would like to donate can do so via this tracked link, or can pledge £10 by texting VODAFONE to 70141[4]. At the request of the Ukrainian Embassy, Vodafone UK has set up a hotline to enable callers to support Ukraine with cash donations or to volunteer support of any type: 0345 8777077.
In kind and Employee Donations:
  • Vodafone Foundation launched match fund appeal for 2 weeks from 14/03/22 to double all Vodafone employee donations to UNHCR’s Ukraine appeal (made via the bespoke tracking link) up to €250K. 
  • Vodafone Albania organised employee donations of food, hygiene and household items for donation to the Ukrainian embassy in Tirana.
  • Vodafone Czech Republic launched an employee donation campaign in support of local NGO partner, People in Need. Employees have the option to use a charitable leave day to support an NGO of their choice to help the NGO’s activities of helping refugees. A further 60 Vodafone CZ employees tested and recharged 3k donated phones for distribution to refugees with credit via two local NGOs.
  • Vodafone Germany raised over €200k via an appeal for donations to the German NGO ‘Aktion Deutschland Hilft’, a coordinating agency that funnels directly into German as well as local NGOs active in Ukraine.  
  • Vodafone Greece and Vodafone Greece Foundation organised employee donations of medical supplies to support the response of Doctors of the World Greece.
  • Vodafone Hungary Foundation partnered with a local NGO to give employees the chance to volunteer in the transportation of refugees or attend an organised volunteer day (using volunteering days supported by the company).
  • Vodafone Italy encouraged employees to donate to the relief effort via the Italian Red Cross and the Maria Francesca Rava Foundation.
  • Employees in Luxembourg donated to Red Cross Luxembourg, with funds matched by Vodafone Foundation in Luxembourg (€6,200 raised to date including match). Employees also donated clothes, household items etc. for local NGO ‘Ukrainians in Luxembourg’. The Foundation also donated 50 refurbished laptops for refugees, and 28 employees have volunteered at refugee reception centres. 
  • Vodafone Romania Foundation opened channels for employee in-kind and cash donations to their NGO partners, raisin €3K to date. In-kind donation points in Vodafone offices in Bucharest, Cluj and Timisoara were also opened for Vodafone employees that wish to contribute.
  • Vodafone Spain Foundation launched a match fundraising appeal for Save the Children for Vodafone Spain employees, raising €65K.
  • Vantage Towers matched employee donations to UNHCR, Interchurch Aid in Hungary, and Romanian Red Cross, until 27th March 2022.
  • Vodafone UK extended its Tech Appeal in partnership with Refugee Council, alongside a donation of 3K smartphones with connectivity and 1K portable power banks worth more than £1m. The UK public and businesses can also donate to the appeal.
Employee volunteering

We are critical national infrastructure (CNI) in the markets we operate, so our ability to keep our operations working as usual plays an essential role in our countries’ overall crisis response. Yet, many of our employees are already or would like to volunteer to assist in the response to the humanitarian crisis and to alleviate human suffering. In line with our Human Resources policy, employees are allowed to allocate up to 4 paid working days for charitable work, depending on local market conditions.

Partnerships

We recognise that we only play a small part of the total humanitarian response, involving a whole range of stakeholders, and also that our contribution is dependent on us working together with partners. Besides UNCHR, authorities and local NGOs, we are seeking to collaborate with other companies whenever relevant to have maximum impact for all our activities. We are also proud of our partnership with Vodafone Ukraine, one of our branded Partner Markets, whom we continue to support throughout this period.


[1] The original support was for 5 days. It has now been extended until further notice.

[2] The original support was for 5 days. It has now been extended until further notice.

[3] Vodafone CZ introduced free calls and text messages to Ukraine already on 24th February in the afternoon. For the first week, the termination costs paid to the Ukraine operators reached nearly CZK 40 million (€1.6 million). To keep the proposition sustainable, from 5th March Vodafone CZ is now offering a monthly bundle of 100 minutes to Ukraine for free, followed by an advantageous price of 4 eurocent per minute.

[4] By texting you consent to future telephone & SMS marketing contact from British Red Cross. Text VODAFONE NO to 70141 to give £10 without consenting to calls & texts. Texts cost £10 + one standard message. The British Red Cross will receive 100%. For full T&Cs visit redcross.org.uk/terms.

Ukraine crisis
  • Digital services
  • Europe
  • Human rights
  • Inclusion
  • Protecting people
  • Vodafone Foundation

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