Pakistan floods

Cash for cows helps recovery after years of floods in Pakistan

Four children stand in front of a cow

© Sara Vaca/BRC

How is livestock bought with Red Crescent cash grants helping communities recover from years of disaster?

Devastating floods swept across much of Pakistan in 2010 and 2011. Animals such as cows, buffalo and goats were a source of money and economic safety net for communities in the affected areas. But when the water died away, many people had lost or been forced to sell their animals.

Now a Pakistan Red Crescent programme is helping people buy livestock again, restoring that financial safety net and giving them a new way of increasing their capital. More

Worldwide disaster response round-up

Worldwide disaster response round-up

We recently launched our Pakistan Floods Appeal. Here’s a brief round-up of some of the ways the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is helping people in Pakistan and in other countries around the world.

A Pakistan Red Crescent Society volunteer helps a father affected by flooding.

© IFRC

Pakistan: In Pakistan, monsoon rains and floods are causing widespread destruction. Over five million people have been affected. Families have lost their livelihoods, and overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in temporary relief camps mean many people risk disease.

Some of the areas affected are still recovering from last year’s flooding, including Sindh province, which is once again one of the worst-hit areas.

The British Red Cross worked with the Pakistan Red Crescent and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to prepare for this year’s monsoon rains. A grant of £1.7 million from the Department for International Development (DFID) enabled the Red Cross to pre-position emergency stocks in the country.

The Pakistan Red Crescent – with support from the Red Cross – is now providing health support, producing clean water, and distributing food parcels and other aid.

Read more about how we’re helping in Pakistan

Donate to the Pakistan Floods Appeal

Middle East and north Africa: The Red Cross is helping people in many countries across the Middle East and north Africa.

As front lines shift in disputed areas of Libya, the ICRC is working with the Libyan Red Crescent to provide medical assistance, visit hundreds of detainees and deliver aid.

Violence in Syria continues to escalate. Recently, a Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteer died – and two more volunteers were injured – when their ambulance was caught in heavy fire while evacuating an injured person to a hospital. The unprecedented levels of violence have caused the ICRC to call upon the authorities, demonstrators and all others involved to respect human life and dignity at all times.

Donate to the Libya & Region Appeal

Children play in north-west Kenya after eating Unimix donated by the Red Cross at their primary school.

© BRC/ Katrina Crew

East Africa: As famine, drought and conflict in the Horn of Africa continues, the Red Cross movement is helping people across the region. In Somalia, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) remains one of the few humanitarian agencies able to work in the southern and central parts of the country.

Over the past 18 months the British Red Cross has provided £1.2 million for programmes across East Africa. It recently released a total of £2.25 million to support people in southern central Somalia.

The Red Cross is also helping support food security in the region through longer-term projects, including maintaining local water supplies, running school feeding programmes, providing healthcare and promoting sustainable farming.

Read the World Disasters Report 2011, which highlights the growing pressure of food insecurity and malnutrition on populations across the globe.

Donate to the East Africa Food Crisis Appeal

Japan: Six months ago, an earthquake and tsunami devastated huge areas of Japan. To date, Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies worldwide have received donations totalling £323 million – including more than £13 million to the British Red Cross.

Appeal funds are supporting the Japanese Red Cross relief and recovery programme, which includes providing medical care and psycho-social support to survivors. The Japanese Red Cross also plans to build temporary hospitals.

Read more about how appeal funds will help Japan recover

Nepal, India and China: On 18 September, a deadly earthquake struck the Himalayan region bordering north India and Nepal. The earthquake measured 6.9 on the Richter scale and killed at least 100 people.

Teams from the Red Cross National Societies of Nepal, India and China have been mobilised and some are working on the ground, providing emergency relief and medical support to survivors in their respective countries.

Read more on how the Red Cross is helping

*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 of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

How digital media is changing the way we respond to disasters

Twitter won’t last long, I wouldn’t bother with it.

This was the advice I remember receiving a couple of years ago at a communications conference with a speaker from a respected PR company.

Pro-government supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and anti-government demonstrators clash in Tahrir Square

But as the current situation in Egypt demonstrates; social media is fast changing the way we engage with each other on a personal, national and global scale. Less than an hour ago I did a Twitter search to find out the latest about the Jan 25 revolution and since then there’s been almost 10,000 new tweets.

If you want to get real-time information about events going on around the corner or across the world, Twitter is where it’s at. Hmmm, I wonder how that PR woman’s career is going these days…

Where social media started off as a great new way to network in our personal lives, its value is being increasingly harnessed by businesses – and the business of humanitarian work can’t afford to be left behind.

Although it’s often the poorest countries who are worst hit by disasters, more often than not, victims of disasters have cell phones and its a resource that needs to be better tapped into, to save lives.

New innovations in social and mobile technologies are having a huge impact on how we deal with emergencies, including early warning and preparedness, as well as disaster and post-disaster environments.

In Haiti and Pakistan we are seeing an increasing number of people using social media to contact the British Red Cross directly. When the Pakistan floods set in last August one Pakistani man left a message on our Posterous blog asking how he could help.

As a result, and within 24 hours of posting his comment, he was volunteering with our logistics emergency response unit providing invaluable help with the distribution of life-saving relief goods.

After the earthquake in Haiti, a hospital ran out of supplies and a local ‘tweeter’ contacted the British Red Cross via Twitter identifying the hospital’s needs and location with GPS co-ordinates. We then contacted Rapid UK who were able to respond quickly to the situation.

Haiti's capital reduced to rubble

When Port-au-Prince was reduced to rubble, lack of information about Haiti’s capital hampered the emergency response. But a collaborative project by OpenStreetMap, two satellite firms and people on the streets in Port-au-Prince provided daily updates to aid workers and rescuers, helping them navigate their way through the city.

As climate change takes its toll and disasters around the world increase in both scale and frequency, it’s important we begin nurturing more productive partnerships between humanitarian actors and the private sector.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is currently working with Voila, a wireless subsidiary of Trilogy International Partners, who have pioneered a new messaging application to help fight cholera in Haiti. It is the first of its kind globally and allows the Red Cross to send customised text messages via SMS to phone users in defined geographic areas – unlike traditional SMS services, which require broadcast messages be delivered to every sub¬scriber on a carrier’s network.

Using the new service, the Red Cross can pro¬vide Haitians with advice and offers of aid that are relevant to their particular circumstances; that capability has driven unprecedented response rates, with life-saving consequences.

Also in partnership with Trilogy International, the Red Cross set up free-phone hotlines for people to be better informed or to register feedback on our service delivery. Our messages have reached more than 360,000 people on an issue as sensitive as sexual violence for instance, with more than 10 per cent of that number responding directly to our offer of support and help – this is a staggering suc¬cess in a 24-hour timeframe with minimal human resources, and demonstrates how mobile technologies are bringing enormous added value to humanitarian operations.

At its core, this approach is about delivering potentially life-saving information into the hands of the people who need it most. Importantly, it is also about enabling populations affected by disaster to channel critical data about their situation and needs to aid agencies, thereby increasing the speed, relevance and effectiveness of aid.

In Haiti, this initiative is being carried out in close collaboration and partnership with Trilogy International, as well as a consortium of non-governmental organisations and media development organisations including OCHA, Save the Children, Internews and BBC World Service Trust.

Pakistani survivor hugging Red Cross delegate

If we want to prevent the huge loss of lives and livelihoods that we’ve seen in the mega-disasters of the Indian Ocean tsunami, Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods then the international response needs to get smarter with all stakeholders working ever closer together.

Ps If you’re still in doubt and wondering could a tweet really help save a life? It can, and it has. Check out this story.

Pps I stole that last line from a great article about social media on the American Red Cross website.

Ppps For anyone who can’t get enough of this subject, here’s a new presentation on digital disasters published on Scribd.

Pppps Please check out our latest video on Haiti by the numbers. Okay, I’m done.

Photo 1 © Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, courtesy alertnet.org

Photo 2 © Red Cross/ECHO

Photo 3 © Olivier Matthys/IFRC

Should charities be ranked?

Do you think the Red Cross is a worthwhile cause? Should charities like the Red Cross be ranked according to their benefit to society? This was the controversial question posed by a leading advisor to some of Britain’s philanthropists recently who believes there should be a charity ‘league table’.

How this would be decided and by whom is up for debate. It’s difficult to imagine how this could possibly work in practice. After all how do you measure worthiness and isn’t it a subjective thing anyway?

Many people who give to charity are motivated by feeling an emotional affinity with the charities they support, or choose to support particular ones because they have directly benefited from them, so would they want or use this kind of information anyway?

If you or someone in your family suffered from cancer, you’d probably support cancer charities. Or – as is often the case at the Red Cross – you might have an instinctive response to a disaster like the recent Pakistan floods and be prompted to donate.

Equally, if your friend or a relative is taking on a fundraising event such as the London Marathon, you’ll happily fork out and trust that they are doing whatever it is for a worthwhile cause.

Eighty four per cent of our regular givers are happy for the Red Cross to decide where to spend their gift, which indicates a high level of trust. And maybe it’s more about building trust so that whichever charity people or organisations donate to, they feel certain their money will be used wisely. Sadly some – Bono’s One to name a recent case – come under fire for misusing or wasting funds.

That’s why we all need to strive for clarity, accountability and transparency. Read more about how the Red Cross uses its funds on our website. You can also see a summary of the income and expenditure of every registered charity in England and Wales, on the Charity Commission’s website.

But whether you decide to support us, cancer charities or donkey sanctuaries, surely that shouldn’t be determined by a definitive, moral chart but by personal preference.

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