UNDP trains rescuers in conflict-affected eastern Ukraine to use innovative location technology

August 2, 2021

Using new technology, rescue crews can determine the precise location of people who need immediate help much more quickly, improving response time

Thanks to the what3words application, Donetsk Oblast rescuers promptly provided assistance to the driver who was stuck on a dirt road / Photo courtesy of the State Emergency Service of Donetsk Oblast

Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast, 2 August 2021 — The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has organized a series of training sessions for rescuers working in Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts on how to use the what3words location technology following its successful rollout in emergency services in the UK, North America, Australia, South Africa and Germany.

Using what3words addresses, members of the public can tell emergency services precisely where help is needed using only three words, enabling emergency responders to find the exact location of an incident and send responders there more quickly. 

Illustration: what3words

What3words has divided the world into three metre squares and given each square a unique combination of three words: a what3words address. ///juggled.noises.scouts, for example, is a precise 3 metre square in Pushkin Park in Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast. What3words is free to use via an app for iOS and Android or the online map at what3words.com. The system works offline, making it ideal for use in areas with an unreliable data connection. What3words addresses cover the entire world and can be used in over 48 languages including Ukrainian.

In an emergency situation, identifying precisely where help is needed is essential to getting resources to the scene quickly. But people who call the emergency services for help often struggle to say where they are, especially if they’re in an area with no addresses or landmarks. 

This is exactly what happened when a truck driver got his vehicle stuck in the sand on a remote, unmarked road near the town of Lyman, Donetsk Oblast. With no known landmarks in sight, the driver struggled to describe his exact location. 

Thanks to the efforts of UNDP in Ukraine under the UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, dispatchers at emergency contact centres in the three oblasts in eastern Ukraine were trained how to use what3words addresses in 101 calls. Therefore, the dispatcher involved in the incident was able to ask the driver for his what3words location and use it to direct rescuers of the 21st State Fire and Rescue unit to that exact spot within minutes. This is the first known rescue in Ukraine involving what3words’ innovative location technology.

The UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme Manager, Victor Munteanu, said that due to the long-lasting armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, people living in the region rely quite heavily on emergency services, when their lives are at risk or when they need immediate help and support. 

“Bringing innovative technologies to rescuers – to people who save lives and make communities safer – is one of our priorities, as we want to enhance the efficiency of the critical job that the rescuers are doing in the east,” Munteanu said. “There are many places in conflict-hit eastern Ukraine – especially along the ‘contact line’ – where it might be hard if not impossible to get the exact address of a location. We’re convinced that this technology, along with the learning opportunities that we provide for the State Emergency Service, will help immensely in saving many more lives.”

Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words adds, “It’s really positive to see emergency services in Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts using what3words to help responders find incidents quickly. Regardless of where you are in the world, if you need help, it’s crucial that the emergency services can find you with ease. However, when you’re in an emergency or danger, it can be really hard to describe your precise location, and in many instances, timing is crucial. This is where what3words can make a difference, by helping people get the help they need, exactly when they need it.”

UNDP has not only provided training for the rescuers but also supplied them with equipment, so that they now have up-to-date gadgets for using what3words technology, namely: 233 modern tablet computers, 69 desktop computers, an interactive panel, routers and a laptop. The equipment has been procured and supplied to State Emergency Service units by the UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, with the financial support of the governments of Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. 


The initiative is a spin-off from an exercise run by the UNDP Accelerator Lab to find innovative solutions to cut the response time of the emergency services.

The United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) is being implemented by four United Nations agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Twelve international partners support the Programme: the European Union (EU), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and the governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden & Switzerland.

About what3words

Find your what3words address here.

Co-founded in London in 2013 by Chris Sheldrick, what3words is the simplest way to talk about location. The system covers the entire world, never needs updating, and works offline. A what3words address is a human-friendly way to share very precise locations with other people, or to input them into platforms and machines such as ride-hailing apps or e-commerce checkouts. It is optimised for voice input and contains built-in error prevention to immediately identify and correct input mistakes.

The free what3words app, available for iOS and Android, and the online map enable people to find, share and navigate to what3words addresses in over 45 languages to date. Millions of what3words addresses are in use around the world, with thousands of businesses using them to save money, be more efficient and provide a better customer experience. what3words is integrated into apps, platforms and websites, with just a few lines of code. Products are available for free or for a nominal fee for qualifying NGOs. Its partners include Mercedes-Benz, Triumph Motorcycles, Premier Inn, the AA and many emergency services across the world.

what3words has a team of over 100 people, across offices in the UK, USA, Germany and Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. The company has raised over £80 million in capital from investors such as Intel, Aramex, Deutsche Bahn, Subaru and the Sony Investment Fund. 

Media enquiries

Yuliia Samus, UNDP, Communications Team Leader, yuliia.samus@undp.org, +380 97 139 1475

Leilah Mackie, PR Manager, what3words, leilah@what3words.com