Project Details

Refugee First Response Center

Remote medical translation service for refugees

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @RFRC_EU

  • Health
  • Internet

When 19-year-old Iraqi refugee Maher Murad went to see a doctor at his shelter in Hamburg, he didn’t get very far. Maher doesn’t speak German yet, and his doctor doesn’t speak Arabic. 

It is estimated that Hamburg, a city of 1.8 million, will accept 60,000 refugees in 2015/2016. These new arrivals will have to resort to hand gestures and broken English when they visit physicians who don’t speak Arabic, Farsi or Pashto commonly spoken by refugee patients. 

It’s just one of a myriad of problems that refugees face, but one that two friends were determined to solve. Harald Neidhardt, CEO of Hamburg-based innovation agency MLOVE, and Mirko Bass, business development manager at Cisco Systems, set out to develop a live video translation system that would enable doctors in Germany to treat asylum seekers arriving in their city.

The pair ‘hacked’ a shipping container, equipping it with Wi-Fi and two terminals with hi-definition video. They partnered with the University Medical Center in Eppendorf, video expert avodaq, and the remote interpretive services provider SAVD to bring together 750 translators who speak 50 languages among them and have some degree of medical training. 

When Maher visited the container – labelled Refugee First Response Center, or RFRC for short – his doctor summoned a translator online. Moments later, she appeared via video-conferencing software in high definition. She was able to ask Maher about his symptoms and relay the information to his doctor immediately, and at just half the cost of hiring a translator to be present on site.

The prototype container processed nearly 5,000 translations between November 2015 and May 2016. The team has secured a $1 million donation from the Otto Foundation to build 10 more units in Hamburg, and hope to install 100 units along the whole migration route in Europe. Find out more at

Image courtesy of MLOVE

Last updated: 13th of September, 2016

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