Tag: Pakistan

Worldwide disaster response round-up

Here’s a brief round-up of how the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is helping people to deal with disasters around the world.
Young male Ivorian refugee stands by a river holding a chicken.

© ICRC/ Noora Kero

Ivory Coast: Following the disputed presidential election in November the humanitarian situation in the country has deteriorated rapidly. In response the British Red Cross has launched the Ivory Coast Crisis Appeal. The organisation has also given £475,000 from its Disaster Fund to provide immediate help for people affected by the violence.

In Ivory Coast around one million people have had to leave their homes. With many people fleeing into neighbouring countries, over 100,000 refugees have sought safety in Liberia, more than 2,000 in Ghana, over 1,000 in Guinea and hundreds more elsewhere in the region. It is estimated that 60 per cent of refugees are children.

Food, water supply and sanitation conditions in Liberian host communities are under enormous strain, with reported outbreaks of yellow fever and cholera.

The Red Cross is working in the region to help more than 100,000 people. It is distributing emergency relief items, assisting wounded people and providing medical items, water, sanitation, seeds and tools.

Donate to our Ivory Coast Crisis Appeal.

Read more about the situation in Ivory Coast and why the appeal was launched now.

Libya and region: In Libya, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) now has an office in Benghazi, and a logistical base and a warehouse in the eastern city of Tobruk. In the city of Ajdabiya it has provided about 15,000 people with food and essential household items, and supplied the main hospital with medical equipment.

As the conflict continues, lives are increasingly at risk. At the invitation of the Libyan authorities the ICRC has met with key Libyan government figures to discuss the expansion of the organisation’s humanitarian activities to the entire country.

The ICRC and the IFRC continue to work with Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in Egypt, Tunisia and Italy to help people fleeing the conflict. The British Red Cross is working in Tunisia to provide sanitation and promote hygiene in camps near the border, and to help manage the arrival and distribution of relief items.

The ICRC has visited over 80 Libyan servicemen and other people held by the armed opposition in Benghazi to check on their treatment and conditions. The ICRC has also warned that weapon contamination now represents a major hazard for the country’s civilian population.

Donate to our Libya and Region Appeal.

Japanese Red Cross workers unload aid from a lorry.

© Japanese Red Cross

Japan: Following the earthquake and tsunami, more than 484 Japanese Red Cross medical teams, involving about 3,000 doctors, nurses and support staff, have been deployed in the affected prefectures. They have been assessing the needs of the survivors, and providing basic healthcare services and psychosocial support to evacuees.

The Japanese Red Cross has distributed over 125,500 blankets and 20,700 emergency relief packs.

Donate to our Japan Tsunami Appeal.

New Zealand: After an earthquake which left more than 160 people dead and at least 2,500 injured, the New Zealand Red Cross is now helping with long-term recovery in the country. Processing centres have been set up to help distribute emergency and hardship grants to the worst affected.

Donate to our New Zealand Earthquake Appeal.

Somalia: Severe drought, coupled with outbreaks of heavy fighting, has left 32 per cent of Somalia’s population – around 2.4 million people – in need of humanitarian assistance.

Since the beginning of the drought, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has distributed emergency supplies to half a million people throughout Somalia and has delivered water to almost one million. The ICRC is providing long-term support to 36 clinics and 14 outpatient therapeutic feeding centres. With the ICRC’s help, the Somali Red Crescent Society recently opened two new health clinics in Middle Juba, a region of southern Somalia affected by conflict and drought. These two clinics alone will benefit over 100,000 people in the region.

In March, the British Red Cross gave £110,000 from its Disaster Fund to help the Somali Red Crescent assist those affected by the drought.

Read more on the drought in Somalia and how the Red Cross is helping.

Yemen Red Crescent worker

© British Red Cross

Yemen: After violence which left some people dead and many injured, the situation has further deteriorated in the north of the country. Renewed armed clashes have occurred in Sa’ada and Al-Jawf. Many families in camps for displaced people and elsewhere are fully dependent on humanitarian aid provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Yemen Red Crescent.

The ICRC has called upon the country’s healthcare facilities to admit any injured person regardless of their affiliations and for medical personnel to exercise total impartiality.

Read more about the situation in Yemen and 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.

Pakistan floods: transcending language with first aid


Penny Sims, Red Cross communications delegate, reports back from Pakistan:

Sometimes, being so far away from home, it’s good to see some things are universal. I’m at the Pakistan Red Crescent office in Dadu with around 40 volunteers, for a first aid training session.

I only have a few words of Urdu, but first aid really does transcend any language barrier. Watching the video ‘A first aider in every home’ I see familiar situations – falls, trips, burns, cuts.

Other aspects of first aid training appear to cross boundaries as well; the video is good, with some believably gory wounds, but there’s still a comedy moment of bad ‘oh dear, I’ve just fallen down the stairs’ acting that has everyone in fits of giggles.

The video takes us through the essentials – checking if a casualty is conscious, breathing, the DRAB check list (danger, response, airways, breathing – and calling for help). Knowing basic first aid is important for everybody, but in flood-affected regions like KN Shah it is vital – the village roads have been corroded by the flood water, or are strewn with debris, so access to emergency health care could be many hours away.

The training is part of a Pakistan Red Crescent programme supported by the German and Danish Red Cross, which combines deliveries of aid items such as blankets, tarpaulins and kitchen sets, with psychological support and useful training for local villagers.

The programme is helping 35 villages and will include building six community centres. Volunteers are going out to the villages to provide psychological support, but also first aid training and demonstrations in how to purify water.

It’s important not only to address people’s physical needs, but also their emotional and psychological needs.

Visit the British Red Cross website to read Dr Solangi’s story about helping address survivors’ psychological problems.

Image 1 © IFRC

Pakistan six months on: water, water, everywhere…



Penny Sims, Red Cross communications delegate, reports back from Pakistan:

Six months after the floods, most people would believe the water should have drained away by now. After all, six months is a long time. Surely it’s over now?

As we drive further south through Sindh province, it becomes increasingly clear this is not the case. Once out of the cities, the only areas that really escaped the floods, we see the situation created by the flood waters – smashed walls of buildings, piles of rubble.

Flooded-field in Pakistan

And then mile upon mile of water. In some places, the water stretches out as far as the eye can see, right out to the horizon. There are occasional landmarks – the odd tree or building. The raised field boundaries and reflected sky create a strange image, as if we are looking at a patchwork of endless fields made of glass.

We pull over at the side of the road to take in the scene. The tops of submerged crops peek out from the water’s edge. Compared to some of the dry fields further north, which were a hive of activity as farmers load huge, colourful trucks with their harvest, this area is eerily still and silent.

A young boy runs along a field edge towards us. He has something he wants to tell me. My Urdu isn’t up to much, but the boy is mute, and tells the story of what happened here through actions, miming the huge walls of water that swept through, leaving the whole area under water. His arms are held high as he shows the height, and the force. Then he looks at me, arms spread wide, as he shows the desolation of this neighbourhood. We nod and gesticulate to show him we understand what he is telling us, and he runs back to his father, his story told.

Woman-in burkha carrying an-aid-box

As we travel further into the villages, there are moments of tragic beauty. Where the water laps at the village perimeters, it’s easy to be fooled momentarily, as you take in what looks like a tranquil lake. But of course there was no lake here before – this is dirty, stagnant flood water, covering what used to be a field. It’s a dangerous breeding  ground for disease, but when clean water could be up to 5 km away, of course people are using this to bathe in, as well as washing their clothes and cooking pots.

The ground underneath is so saturated, it is taking months and months for the water to drain away. Natural drainage has been totally overwhelmed. Where the water has gone, it has left behind a hard, sun-baked layer of earth. But this can be deceptive – stray away from the path and you can soon find that layer cracks, as you sink up to the top of your boots in gooey grey mud.

Find out what the Red Cross is doing to help people recovery from the floods

Image 1 © IFRC

Image 2 and 3 © Olivier Mathys/IFRC

Pakistan: tailoring aid six months after superflood

Men-with-piles of emergency relief

Tomorrow marks the six-month anniversary of the Pakistan superflood and along with other mega-disasters, such as the Haiti earthquake and Asian tsunami, it puts the spotlight on the way aid agencies help people recover from crises.

In Pakistan, the situation is still very serious. More than 20 million people – one in every ten people in the country – have been affected by the floods and with hundreds of thousands still dependent on food aid, the first steps to recovery have barely begun.

I can understand why people might criticise and find it strange that more progress has not been made. Even as an aid worker with some understanding of the context, I was still surprised by the situation I found when I was deployed to Pakistan in October. I was helping with the distribution of emergency relief in the southern province of Sindh and I found that our team was the first to reach some people with aid even though the monsoon rains had begun in July.

Part of the reason for this is the sheer scale of the disaster. In terms of effect, as in the devastation it caused to infrastructure and the number of people affected, it is larger than the Boxing Day tsunami and the earthquake in Haiti combined. A fifth of Pakistan has been affected, covering an area the size of the United Kingdom. The disaster also unfolded over the course of several weeks. Its effects were not as immediate as an earthquake’s are, for example the instantaneous razing to the ground of an entire city, and because the waters took so long to flow from one end of the country to the other, different areas are at different stages of the emergency.

In the areas where people can return home they are finding a level of devastation similar to the aftermath of an earthquake. Over five million acres of cropland were destroyed, almost two million homes have been damaged or destroyed and infrastructure such as roads and bridges have been damaged or washed away.

Where the waters have gone down crops and fertile land remain buried under several feet of silt. People cannot grow food for themselves and their families, let alone enough to sell at market.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of people in southern areas are still unable to return home as thousands of acres of land are still flooded. In Sindh province residents live in a squalid, watery wasteland where stagnant floodwaters covering fields are a serious health concern and make subsistence farming impossible.

The British Red Cross has learnt a lot from previous disasters and certainly our experience after the tsunami is informing a lot of our recovery work today. But at the same time it’s definitely not a case of ‘one size fits all’.

Every country and every disaster is unique and it’s vital for us to understand the context and the people before we start helping them recover. Although we assess the options available in each situation, we tend to focus on constructing shelter and sanitation facilities along with helping people re-establish ways of making a living as these are areas in which we have developed expertise and can have the best impact on people’s recovery.

Finding a job is the top priority for most people after the initial effects of a disaster pass, although how we approach this can be very different depending on the context. Primarily, however, how we work with communities to recover from disasters is based on discussions with those affected and their families to ensure the support we can provide is based on their priorities.

Men receiving tins of ghee at aid-distribution

Although the Pakistan floods began almost six months ago, the scale is so huge the operation is still very much in the emergency relief phase. However, as plans for longer-term recovery are developed, one thing to consider is how to help people prepare better for future disasters.

Because there’s no point in doing recovery without building people’s resilience to future disasters at the same time. Without this, people will only end up in the same sort of crisis all over again.

After the destruction caused by Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh in 2007, the British Red Cross worked with several communities to relocate them from their precarious homes by the sea, where many had lost their homes and livelihoods.

As well as helping families build new, stronger homes, which would protect them more in future cyclones, we gave them fruit trees. This not only minimises the risk of soil erosion around their homes, it also gives them an additional source of income.

In Pakistan, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has helped more than two million people with emergency relief, which will still be needed in some areas for some time to come. It is also planning to help 130,000 families get back on their feet and recover their livelihoods over the next two years.

Working alongside the government of Pakistan and co-ordinating with other aid agencies, it’s about getting people in a position where they are stronger and more able to cope.

Long-term recovery may not be as sexy as emergency response but it’s just as vital when it comes to saving and improving lives.

Find out more about what the Red Cross is doing in Pakistan

Images © Sarah Oughton/BRC

Disaster Response Challenge leads Dave to Pakistan


Dave Luddington went from Red Cross first aid volunteer to fire and emergency support service (FESS) volunteer to delegate in Pakistan within three years.

Dave spent a month as a Red Cross delegate in flood-hit Pakistan, in September and October last year. His role was to manage the distribution of aid throughout a large region of the country.

Dave was already an event first aid and FESS volunteer when he took part in the Red Cross’ Disaster Response Challenge, which led to his recent delegate role. The event, in which participants respond to a hypothetical disaster under the guidance of trained delegates, was a eureka moment.

He said: “I’ve worked in warehouse logistics for over 20 years and had no idea that I could use these skills to help the Red Cross in a disaster situation. After taking part in the Disaster Response Challenge, I immediately applied to become a warehouse logistics delegate.”

Eighteen months later, Dave was fully trained and flying out to Pakistan – and now he can’t wait to go back. He said: “I’m looking forward to spending more time as a Red Cross delegate, going out to disaster areas and helping to save lives. It’s so rewarding.”

Why don’t you sign up for this year’s Disaster Response Challenge, in Hampshire, on 8-10 April or 23-25 September? Entrance costs just £50 (plus minimum sponsorship of £500). Although participation doesn’t guarantee a delegate role with the Red Cross, it’s a great introduction to our international emergency response work. And, of course, you’ll be helping us raise vital funds in the process.

A year of responding to crises at home and abroad


As 2010 draws to a close, we’d like to show all our friends, fans, donors, supporters and partners how you’ve helped us make a difference this year.

While 2010 was full of high-profile disasters, our volunteers and staff helped people every day with a wide array of personal crises.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest crises you helped us respond to this year.

January – The Big Freeze

Britain entered the new year covered in a blanket of snow. As the biggest snowfall for decades disrupted travel, schools and communication networks, our volunteers jumped in their vehicles and worked round the clock. Emergency response volunteers supported ambulance services, helped district nurses reach urgent cases, and provided people with blankets and food after power cuts.  Care in the home volunteers visited hundreds of vulnerable people to check their welfare.  And, when there was a massive increase in winter injuries, our medical equipment services were kept busy loaning out wheelchairs and other mobility equipment.

January – Haiti earthquake

Credit: Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross

The devastating Haiti earthquake on 12 January led to the largest single-country response in Red Cross history. Around 230,000 people died and more than a million were left homeless. We immediately launched an appeal for funds, and the public generously donated, helping us deliver food, hundreds of thousands of tents and tarpaulins, millions of litres of clean water, thousands of cooking sets, and vital medical aid to those who needed it.

Almost one year on, we’re still providing help with sanitation, shelter and livelihoods as Haitian people look to rebuild their lives.

February – first aid for people with disabilities

In February we reported on our three-year project to deliver specially-adapted first aid training for people with disabilities. From September 2006, around 6,000 people took part in one of our inclusive first aid courses. We announced that the programme would continue, getting a big thumbs up from former England and Newcastle United football player Alan Shearer, who said: “It’s easy to assume that because someone is physically disabled or has learning difficulties that they can’t learn first aid, however this just isn’t the case. This fantastic British Red Cross initiative has proved that, with the right training, people with disabilities are more than able to learn the skills to save a life.”

February – Chile earthquake

On 27 February, an earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale hit Chile. We released £50,000 from our Disaster Fund to help the Chilean Red Cross respond. We also launched an appeal to raise money.

March – highlighting tuberculosis worldwide

On World TB Day (24 March) we highlighted our TB programmes in Central Asia and Africa, where we’re combating stigma and helping people get the treatment they need.

TB is a curable disease but still kills around two million people a year.

April – volcanic ash leads to travel disruption

When planes were grounded across Europe, we sent two psychosocial support teams to Calais and Madrid to provide practical help and emotional support to Britons trying to return home.

May – the Big Red Cross Bus

We toured the UK with the world’s first all-in-one mobile charity shop and volunteering centre. For two weeks, starting on 31 May, over 2,000 people shopped on our bus and 200 people signed up to volunteer with us.

June – highlighting destitution of refugees and asylum seekers

A British Red Cross poll showed that one-in-four British people still believe asylum seekers come to Britain to claim benefits. The survey results were published ahead of Refugee Week, an annual UK-wide programme of arts, cultural and educational events celebrating refugees’ contribution to the UK.

We also launched a report highlighting the dire hardships facing destitute asylum seekers and the urgent need for a more humane asylum system. The report – Not gone, but forgotten – showed that many refused asylum seekers survive on only one meal a day, are unable to work, are homeless, and rely on charities like the Red Cross to survive.

July – Kyrgyzstan unrest

When ethnic violence broke out in southern Kyrgyzstan, we released £100,000 from our Disaster Fund to help the International Committee of the Red Cross scale up their humanitarian operation, providing healthcare, emergency relief items and forensic experts. An estimated 100,000 people – mostly women and children – fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan.

July/August – Pakistan floods

An estimated 20 million people were affected by Pakistan’s worst flooding for 80 years. The floods killed more than 1,700 people and destroyed crops, farms and food, leaving people facing months of hunger.

We sent teams of logistics and sanitation specialists to organise relief items, provide clean toilets and water, and deliver hygiene education to reduce people’s risk of disease.

Credit: British Red Cross/John Millard

British Red Cross/John Millard

After we carried out a survey that showed young people feel ill-equipped to deal with the emergencies they’ve faced, we launched the Life. Live it. campaign encouraging them to learn first aid. One way the campaign is engaging with teens is through giving away money-can’t-buy experiences. The first took place last week, when young football fans attended training sessions with Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United players.

October – recognising young heroes

We held the fifth annual Humanitarian Citizen Award ceremony, which celebrates the extraordinary achievements of young people from across Britain. The overall winner was 15-year-old Cameron Foster from Wigan, who has done countless sponsored runs, walks and abseils to raise thousands of pounds for specialist sports equipment for disabled people.

November – first anniversary of the Cumbria floods

Although many people have moved back into their homes and are rebuilding their lives, the voluntary sector is still providing a wide range of help. Our volunteers have been a consistent and much-needed source of support in Cumbria, making more than 835 visits and 2,200 phone calls to check on people’s welfare. 

December – It’s snowing again

We’re closing out the year the way we began it – by helping people struggling with heavy snowfalls, ice, and burst water pipes. We released money from our Disaster Fund to help the snow response in northern Scotland. Our volunteers have been out supporting the emergency services across the UK – from transporting people to and from hospital, to delivering medication to homebound people. And our volunteers in Northern Ireland have been delivering water to people after leaking pipes have left 40,000 people without a water supply.

Want to help your community, whatever happens in 2011? Find out about volunteering with us.

Win free Christmas cards!


snowmanAre you getting stressed with festive fever already creeping across the nation in all its gaudy glory? If so, we’re here to help by offering you the chance to cross one thing off your Christmas to do list.

We have five packs of ten Christmas cards from our online shop up for grabs for five lucky winners. All you have to do to enter and be in with the chance of bagging one is correctly answer the following five questions (some of the answers can be found on our website):

The Quiz

1) Who will be our special celebrity guest at our London Christmas fair on 1 December?

a) Simon Cowell
b) Wayne Sleep
c) Tom Jones

2) How many people per week are our logistics specialists helping receive relief items and food in Pakistan ?

a) over 25,000
b) over 90, 000
c) over 120,000

3) Which of the following services do our volunteers provide?

a) help with Christmas present-wrapping
b) emergency turkey basting
c) emotional support in a crisis (including cups of tea)

4) How many people ran for us in this year’s Great North Run?

a) less than hundred
b) around 200
c) more than 300

5) If your child chokes on a roast potato, which first aid technique should you employ?

a) Hang them upside down by their feet and gently shake
b) Put your fingers in their mouth
c) Give them back blows between the shoulder blades

To enter, you can either email me (alixmiller@redcross.org.uk) or tweet the answer to us by clicking the tweet button at the top of this post and adding the answers into the box. We will select the winners at random at 3 p.m on Friday 22 October.

Good luck!

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.