Category: Emergencies

Can G20 bring new dawn in Zimbabwe?


Zimbabwe was the first African country I visited – it was 1995, I was 21 years old and it fulfilled all my dreams of what I imagined Africa to be. It was pure adventure, from the hustle and heat of the capital Harare, to travelling across the country on red, dusty roads with people carrying all manner of things on their heads and finally the rushing waters of the Zambezi. I fell in love with the enormity of the landscape and its smokey dusk after brilliant sunsets – so different from what I’d known growing up in London.

Girls carrying buckets of water on their heads

Then there was the amazing generosity of the people. I was travelling with a friend and it seemed that everyone we met offered us an unexpected kindness, buying us meals, putting us up in their homes, going out of their way to show us around their country, of which they were so proud.

And so I’ve found it heartbreaking to watch this wonderful country trapped in a social and economic downward spiral. More

Mumbai: the great escape


I hear that my ex-husband, Alex, has got engaged. I’m really happy for him, not least because the last time I saw him was on TV, looking shaken. He had just had a very lucky escape from armed gunmen, and was talking about his experiences to a news channel.

It was pretty surreal seeing him on screen as, at the time – November – I was in a hotel room in Dubai, on holiday. It turns out that he had got caught up in the terror attacks in Mumbai many miles away. I watched the screen, transfixed. He told a reporter how gunmen at the Oberoi hotel, where he had been dining, had taken him and other people captive and frogmarched them up the stairs towards the roof.


Monday Movement update #4


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

Philippines abduction: The group that abducted three ICRC employees on 15 January have threatened to kill one of them today if their demands are not met. ICRC president Jacob Kellenberger is appealing to the group to release Mary Jean Lacaba, Eugenio Vagni and Andreas Notter unharmed immediately.

Crocs, snakes and hippos: As the Zambezi River floods north-east Namibia, villagers are having to fight more than the water to survive.

Nazir in a wheelchairPakistan/Afghanistan photo gallery: The ICRC has published a photo gallery of their work on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. See pictures and read stories of people like nine-year-old Nazir (pictured), who’s being treated at a surgical hospital.

Indonesia dam: Two days of rain burst a 100-year-old dam in Jakarta, killing at least 50 people. The Indonesia Red Cross has trained emergency response volunteers carrying out search and rescue, and handing out emergency relief items. More

Where will you take your next poo?


Hilarious article today in The Times about the new intricacies of courtship in India – the message being given to men is: “No toilet, no bride.”

Except you delve a little deeper into the article and quickly realise this story is more tragedy than comedy.

Many countries are in the same position as India – where millions of people are forced to defecate in the open because they have no toilets. In fact three billion people – that’s half the world’s population! – don’t have proper sanitation facilities. Not only does this cause massive spread of disease, it causes humiliation and can be dangerous. More

Monday Movement update #3


An elderly couple outside their home

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

Tuberculosis: Tomorrow (24 March) is World TB Day. The Red Cross is working to prevent the spread of TB and stop discrimination against those living with it.

Red Cross staff held hostage: Staff members of the ICRC have now been held hostage in the Philippines for more than two months. The chairman of the Philippines Red Cross was able to speak to Mary Jean Lacaba, Eugenio Vagni and Andreas Notter on 19 March.

Bangladesh cyclone recovery: Cyclone Sidr struck Bangladesh on 15 November 2007, destroying thousands of homes. Now the Red Cross is making sure families, like Oazed Mridha Fakir and Anwara Begum (pictured), have stronger houses.

Sri Lanka conflict: As fighting continues in Sri Lanka, the ICRC is working to bring those trapped in the middle a little hope.

Water and conflict: At the Fifth World Water Forum in Istanbul, the ICRC called on governements to ensure civilians have access to water during conflicts. Read an interview with Robert Mardini, head of the ICRC’s water and habitat unit.

*The Movement is made of 186 National Societies (including the British Red Cross), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation.

Image © Sanjida S. Tawhid/IFRC

Pyjama party


Two women and a baby

It’s 3am, pouring with rain and only two degrees, so why is there a family in the middle of the road wearing only their pyjamas?

This is a scene that our fire and emergency support service volunteers see all the time. In our spare time we volunteer to be on call helping the fire service look after people who have been in a fire or flood. We’re also working with south Wales police on a new idea to help victims of crime, but more about that in a future blog.

So what do we do? Some nights all we do is make people a cup of tea and sit with them while they tell us what’s happened. Other nights you might see us trying to rehouse a pet snake, reclothe a whole family or find emergency accommodation for somebody whose house has been burnt to the ground.

I guess you might be wondering why we do it. After all, getting up in the wee hours of the morning can be a real pain, especially in the middle of winter. And it’s even worse if you have to go straight to work once you’ve finished your volunteering. More

Monday Movement update


Here’s your weekly update on what different members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement* are doing.A child drinks from a tap

World Water Day photos: More than a billion people lack a basic water supply and diarrhoeal diseases like cholera are on the rise. For World Water Day (22 March), the International Federation has created a photo gallery showing how it’s working with communities to improve their access to water.

Democratic Republic of Congo photo gallery: More than 1.2 million people have fled violence in North Kivu province since 2007. The ICRC has created a photo gallery on their website showing their work there. You can also read an interview with Carl de Keyzer, the Magnum Photos photographer who took the pictures.

Human trafficking in Eastern Europe: The Red Cross and other international organisations are warning the economic recession could lead to a rise in human trafficking.

Madagascar demonstrations: Political demonstrations in Madagascar have sparked violence for the past month and Malagasy Red Cross first aid volunteers have been out helping those caught up. They’re the only organisation providing first aid and getting people to hospital, making them local heroes.

*The Movement is made of 186 National Societies (including the British Red Cross), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation.

Image © Jakob Dall/Danish Red Cross

Becoming a filmmaker in Sierra Leone


Group of kids wavingExciting day today. Last month I was in Sierra Leone and today, the two short films I produced on Red Cross programmes out there go live on the web. So, I know it’s a shameless plug but I hope you check them out.

Because I’m telling you, I’ve never worked so hard in my life – being a first time producer I had no idea what I was letting myself in for – it’s a really labour intensive job. But I loved every minute.

Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war ended in 2002 and since then the Red Cross has been helping people recover and build peace in communities that were torn apart by the conflict. I guess all civil wars are brutal and this one certainly didn’t buck the trend. I watched Sorius Samura’s documentary Cry Freetown before I went – it’s truly shocking. More