© Matt Percival/BRC

© Matt Percival/BRC

What links earthquakes in Nepal with HIV in Lesotho, and cholera outbreaks in Sierra Leone with the health problems affecting mothers in Myanmar? The effects of all these crises can be reduced by making people and communities more resilient.

Resilience is the ability to prevent, withstand and recover from disasters and emergencies. The British Red Cross is building resilience across the world and in the UK. We’re highlighting that work by putting the spotlight on four very different programmes helping some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Each one is run in partnership with that country’s Red Cross or Red Crescent National Society.

Why does resilience matter?

We think building resilience is just common sense. We shouldn’t just sit around and wait for floods, fires or outbreaks of disease – by taking action beforehand, we can make sure the impact of risks and crises is drastically reduced. This idea has been guiding our work for decades, and we think it’s more important than ever.

Even simple steps can save lives and livelihoods, protect homes and put people on the path to a better future. Giving people the power to prevent and prepare is a great investment too. A little time and money spent now will often prevent the need to give much more when a crisis happens.

© Jarkko Mikkonen/Finnish Red Cross

© Jarkko Mikkonen/Finnish Red Cross

What are we doing to help?

We’re working in cities and villages with people of all ages and backgrounds, as well as a host of organisations from community groups to governments. But there are a few ideas that link all our resilience work.

Firstly, we know education and awareness are key. Our projects give out vital information such as how a good diet means a safer pregnancy, or advice on what kind of house is most likely to survive an earthquake. Our skilled volunteers are using home visits, radio shows, street theatre and lots of other methods to pass these messages on.

We also know everyday objects can make a big difference – from mosquito nets that protect families (including mothers and children) from malaria, to latrines that could stop the spread of fatal diseases.

People most affected by crisis and disasters are often the most vulnerable in society, such as women, children and older people, so helping them is at the heart of our programmes. And we know everyone we help is facing a wide variety of risks and challenges, so our support needs to be complex too.

That’s why our HIV, TB and food security programme in Lesotho doesn’t just help people get access to medication and understand how to take it. It also helps them grow the food that makes them strong enough to live positively.

Finally, we know the people we’re helping should have a big say in how the programmes are run. At every stage – from assessment to review and evaluation – our work is truly community based and driven by volunteers working in their own neighbourhoods . We know tailored projects that make good use of local knowledge and skills are the best way of creating lasting change.

A woman waters plants in a field

© Benoit Matsha-Carpentier/IFRC

Resilience in the UK

Resilience is vitally important in the UK too. That’s why the British Red Cross is making sure people are preparing for crisis with campaigns such as Ready for Winter, which helps people across the country get ready for severe weather. We’re also giving people first aid skills and the confidence to use them, and helping people vulnerable people live independently at home.

Preparing for a better future

Nepal country representative Frank Kennedy says: “Thousands of people here in Nepal, from Red Cross volunteers to our partners in government, are working hard to make Kathmandu more resilient. For many people taking simple steps to prepare, such as identifying safe places to shelter or learning basic first aid, could prove lifesaving.”

Sadly, even the most resilient people and communities will still be affected by crisis. Our programmes can’t stop earthquakes or stamp out every disease and health problem. But they will save lives and make sure people are ready to rebuild after disasters and crises.

We’re proud to be thinking ahead, because we know a bit of planning can make a big, big difference.