Category: Emergencies

Bragging for a cause


Most of the time I’m far too English to brag but it’s for a good cause so please indulge me – you see I want to show you a picture of one of the places I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Red Cross.

Maldives island

Yep, it’s the Maldives.

Although my day job at the Red Cross is international writer, I’m also a trained member of our logistics emergency response unit (ERU). This means I’m part of a roster and every year I spend one month being on-call 24/7. If a major disaster happens, such as the Caribbean hurricanes last year, then the four-member team is ready to be deployed immediately to help deliver and distribute relief items.

Obviously the chances of being deployed every year are pretty slim so it’s important we keep up our skills, which is done each year by a week-long training session involving a simulated emergency – I’d tell you more about this but my colleague Clare has just written a particularly amusing blog about the whole thing.

Anyway, back to my bragging. More

Monday Movement update #10


Here’s your weekly update on what different members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement* are doing.

A man lies on a bed in a Zimbabwean clinicSri Lanka conflict: Displaced people in Sri Lanka not only need food, water and medical care. Thousands need to know whether relatives are alive and well. Jacques de Maio, ICRC head of operations for South Asia, explains how the organisation is helping.

Cholera in Zimbabwe: The Federation believes it’s likely Zimbabwe will see its hundred thousandth case of cholera sometime this week. More

Fintastic logistics training


Another week, another country, another training course. This time I was in Finland, in a place called Tampere, which is Finland’s second biggest city. The Finns are quite keen on ranking things by size I discovered. It was here on the banks of the Tammerkoski Rapids in south-western Finland where the Nokia company was first set up. This was before it relocated to the town of Nokia and took on the name. Lucky really as “Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä connecting people” isn’t quite so snappy a slogan!


Monday Movement update #9


Here’s your weekly update on what different members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement* are doing.

Swine flu: More than one week after the peak of the H1N1 crisis, terraces, squares and public places in Mexico City are once again packed to capacity.

Wounded civilians in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka conflict: As the ICRC stands ready to carry out its humanitarian work hundreds of seriously wounded patients blocked in the conflict area have been waiting in vain for desperately needed medical care.

Pakistan: The latest fighting in Pakistan’s North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP) has caused civilian casualties and massive displacement. The head of ICRC delegation in Pakistan comments on their response. More

Water way to see Austria


Sometimes I look at my life and wonder how I end up in the situations I find myself in. Karma? Kismet? Serendipity? These days it’s often down to this amazing Movement that I work for which has some magical ability to make me sign up to do things I would ordinarily find myself running away from and so this is how I ended up in Austria purifying water from a duck pond and only dreaming of eating Sachertorte.

The team at the raw water tank

As an Aquarian and a spa bunny, I’m quite a fan of H2O but this is the first time I got to understand how much time and effort (and money) go into producing clear, clean drinkable water. It is thanks to the Austrian Red Cross (ARC) that I now have an appreciation of this. I also have to thank the ARC and particularly the Austrian water and sanitation specialised water emergency response unit for showing me the alternative delights of Austria many of which are not featured in the Lonely Planet guidebook and through the fortunes of serendipity or a good search engine I am now able to share with you. So in no particularly order here is my list of the top five alternative Austrian must dos. More

Could you write about neglected crises?


If you think you could write about neglected crises then what’s stopping you? There’s still time to enter this year’s Guardian International Development Journalism competition. And if you’re good enough to make it to the top 16, you’ll be flown to a developing country and given a new assignment.

Displaced woman in Congo

Top of my list would be the Congo – you may remember the media attention it received last year following renewed fighting between government troops and the armed opposition in North Kivu. Over 250,000 people fled their homes and the Disasters Emergency Committee launched an appeal.

Yet despite this attention and celebrity support from Ben Affleck, who made a film called Gimme Shelter to raise awareness about the situation, the media spotlight quickly moved on, suffering as it does from ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).

In today’s Metro, there was a sneeze and you’ll miss it article quoting Oxfam on the ‘untold death and suffering’ among civilians that is currently taking place. And if you want to find out more about the sort of wounds being inflicted on people, read Ken Barrand’s delegate diary.

So your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to write about an issue affecting the developing world which isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Ok, don’t tell anyone but here’s a few ideas… More

Swine flu and the hand washing bug


The coverage from some corners of the media about swine flu is enough to make me have a serious attack of obsessive hand, home and everything washing.

Even as I type this, I’m wondering just how many dangerous germs are lurking on my less than pristine keyboard. Should I be wearing gloves? An airtight suit perhaps?


Fighting fear and fire in California


This weekend I got some scary news. My brother is a firefighter in southern California, and he’s one of around 2,300 firefighters who’ve been fighting the Santa Barbara wildfires for the past few days.

I talked to his fiancée this weekend (they’re getting married in 10 days!) and she said Rob and some of the other firefighters had been at someone’s house waiting for an assignment when the fire suddenly came over a nearby hill straight toward them. They had to scramble to get their gear on and start fighting it. More