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Johanna de Tessières

Salamat, a bridge that spans oceans and transcends boundaries


Salamat, meaning “good health” in Arabic, is more than just a word: it’s a short verbal message meaning “I’m safe and well” – but for these families it’s a lifeline that restores hope and connection. Operating aboard the Ocean Viking, a rescue vessel operated by SOS Mediterranee in partnership with IFRC, Salamat takes the mission of humanitarian assistance to a deeply personal level. The Ocean Viking’s primary objective is to save lives at sea, rescuing survivors from perilous conditions in the Mediterranean. But the impact of their mission extends beyond the physical act of rescue – it reaches the hearts and minds of those on board.

Many survivors, as they embark on the journey, have been separated from their families for weeks, sometimes months. Amid the uncertainty of their situation, the isolation from their loved ones only deepens their distress. This is where a Salamat comes in, offering a glimmer of light amidst the darkness. 

When survivors come aboard the Ocean Viking, they are given the opportunity to reconnect with their families with a Salamat. The process is simple yet profound: survivors provide phone numbers of their loved ones, which are then relayed to ICRC’s dedicated team. These phone numbers are crucial, as they hold the potential to Bridge the gap between the survivors and their families spread across the world. 

The Family Links Network of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is vast and well-coordinated. The information provided by survivors is collected on board the Ocean Viking by IFRC and Red Crescent and Red Cross staff, then relayed in a secure manner to the ICRC’s dedicated team than ensures the coordination and dispatch to the relevant National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies or ICRC delegations in each respective country. This localized approach ensures that the families of survivors are contacted by the familiar voices of their national societies or ICRC offices – voices that represent both comfort and hope. A phone call is made to inform families that their loved ones are safe on the Ocean Viking and on their way to a place of safety. 

However, the connection doesn’t stop there. ICRC and IFRC understand that communication is a two-way street. Feedback from these phone calls is transmitted back to the IFRC team onboard the Ocean Viking in an encrypted format, ensuring the privacy and security of the information shared. This feedback is a lifeline of its own, reassuring survivors that their families have been informed of their safety and well-being. 

In the instance that a call doesn’t go through due to technical issues or incorrect contact information, a new phone number is collected, and the same meticulous process is followed once again, until the connection is established.  

A Salamat is a lifeline in the truest sense, a Bridge that spans oceans and transcends boundaries. It brings solace to those who have endured unimaginable challenges and offers a lifeline to families who have waited anxiously for news. It showcases the profound impact of technology and human empathy combined, reminding us that even in the midst of the direst situations, humanity’s capacity for compassion shines brightly. 

In an era where so much can separate us, the Salamat stands as a testament to our shared humanity – a simple word that carries within it the power to mend broken bonds and restore hope.