Question: How do you know what someone really needs in a crisis?
Answer: You ask them.
Community engagement and accountability is an approach to delivering aid that emphasises the importance of participation and communication with communities.
Now the Red Cross have launched a new tool to help humanitarians become better at listening to the people they help.
Funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, our new Community Engagement hub brings together information and expertise from across the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as well as other humanitarian organisations. It is available in English, Spanish, French and Arabic.
We thought we’d celebrate the hub’s launch with a quick potted tour of our community engagement work around the world.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
A major outbreak of Ebola has left over 1,000 people dead in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Tragically, one of the most dangerous times is during traditional burial ceremonies where the body of the deceased is ritually touched by mourners.
Red Cross volunteers are on the ground going to communities to educate them about how to bury their dead without risking infection themselves. Sharing information with at-risk communities and listening to people remains the most crucial way to tackle rumours and encourage safe behaviour.
Just across the border from DRC in Uganda a mobile cinema has drawn a crowd. The cinema provides an engaging way for communities to get more information about Ebola and how to prevent and protect themselves from the disease.
“When you have music, when you have drama, when you have theatre, everyone will be attracted,” said Aggrey Nyondwa, Communications Officer with Uganda Red Cross. “This is one way to sensitize and bring people to these Ebola messages.”
Children play with Red Cross community engagement delegate, Keith, in a camp in Beira, Mozambique. Cyclone Idai, which hit the Southern African country in March, wreaked havoc on Beira and its surrounding areas. The storm destroyed countless homes, as well as crops, health, water and sanitation facilities.
For the more than 10 million migrants in Russia getting access to healthcare can be a challenge. Field research conducted by the Russian Red Cross Society has shown that more than 78 per cent of migrants have limited access to healthcare and only 2.1 per cent of them received health insurance from their employers.
Russian Red Cross volunteers conduct health sessions and give leaflets to the migrants to raise awareness about disease and where to go for TB and HIV testing.
Brazilian Red Cross volunteers ran an information campaign on the spread of the Zika virus. More than 100,000 people in Latin America caught the Zika virus between 2015 and 2016.
A key component of the Zika response was monitoring rumours and misinformation in communities. Panama Red Cross teams found that many pregnant women were too frightened to attend important antenatal appointments because of fears that the Zika virus could be fatal.
Once the Red Cross knew about this rumour, they provided communities with the right information through door-to-door visits, TV, radio and posters. This meant that pregnant women would feel safe to attend their vital pre-birth check-ups.
Sharing expertise and experiences
So as we’ve seen, right now there are a host of innovative ways in which the Red Cross is engaging with people around the world to improve the way we work.
Our new Community Engagement hub offers over 300 resources including training materials, an online library, as well as a forum for users to ask questions and share their expertise and experiences.
It’s free to access so have a look and see what you could learn.