Friday - - In the UAE -

When was the last time we re­sponded to a cri­sis call?’ asks Marie–Laure de Quina Hoff. ‘Yes­ter­day. Right now we are pre­par­ing a con­sign­ment for South Su­dan. That goes to­mor­row.’

The French lo­gis­tics man­ager of the Dubai of­fice of the IFRC is clearly busy. ‘We’ve just sent a load of stuff to Somaliland to­day. There’s a flight tak­ing off from Fu­jairah prob­a­bly right now with the con­sign­ment,’ she says.

With 17 mil­lion vol­un­teers reach­ing over 150 mil­lion peo­ple across the world through so­ci­eties in 190 coun­tries, the IFRC is the world’s largest hu­man­i­tar­ian net­work. ‘Apart from this we have the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross whose man­date is to re­spond to hu­man­i­tar­ian crises when­ever there is a war,’ says Marie, of­fer­ing a peek into the vast hu­man­i­tar­ian net­work.

Be­fore I can ask if the work of the two arms ever over­laps, she ex­plains: ‘The IFRC man­date is to re­spond to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters… so when such in­ci­dents oc­cur we step in.’

To re­act ef­fi­ciently and in­stantly, the IFRC has three more ware­houses lo­cated in dif­fer­ent parts of the world – in Malaysia, Panama, Spain - stocked with a range of items that could be use­ful for vic­tims of a dis­as­ter.

That the IFRC was set up way back in 1919 in the aftermath of the First World War means the sys­tems are in place and fine­tuned to de­liver help ef­fi­ciently.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter a dis­as­ter is no­ti­fied, a fact team vis­its the place to as­sess the needs of vic­tims and lists all the items re­quired. ‘We con­sol­i­date the lists into a mo­bil­i­sa­tion ta­ble and then launch an ap­peal with this ta­ble so we know what we need and we do not end up du­pli­cat­ing ef­forts,’ says Marie.

The ap­peal is sent to the Red Cross move­ment. ‘We have some funds so we don’t wait for peo­ple to do­nate to start buy­ing and mov­ing stuff to the needy.

‘The mo­bil­i­sa­tion ta­ble is reg­u­larly up­dated and shared with the fact teams so they know what they will be get­ting,’ says Marie.

The IFRC of­fi­cial is all praise for the fa­cil­i­ties at Hu­man­i­tar­ian City. ‘The Dubai of­fice covers all of the Mid­dle East, Europe and Africa,’ says Marie. ‘From here we can ship out ba­sic items of first re­sponse within 48 hours to 5,000 fam­i­lies – which is 25,000 peo­ple. In two weeks, we can ship ba­sic items to 15,000 fam­i­lies which means 75,000 peo­ple.’ How busy have they been over the years? ‘Very,’ says Marie. ‘Last year alone we made 187 ship­ments to 30 coun­tries. That’s roughly one ev­ery sec­ond day. And that’s from Dubai alone.’

The IFRC of­fice in Dubai ships only non food items or NFIs, in hu­man­i­tar­ian jar­gon. Tarpaulin, plas­tic sheets and tools are some of the first things air­lifted so a dis­as­ter area can be cleared to put up proper shel­ters. Blan­kets, hy­giene kits such as soap, tooth­paste, tooth­brushes, kitchen sets and tools to pre­pare food, buck­ets, sleep­ing mats, mosquito nets fol­low.

‘We also rush wa­ter-pu­ri­fy­ing equip­ment be­cause very of­ten wa­ter sources will be un­clean,’ she says. The kits can pro­vide potable wa­ter for 5,000 peo­ple a day.

Apart from this, the IFRC also air­lifts a fleet of am­bu­lances and pa­trol ve­hi­cles for dis­as­ter-af­fected ar­eas. ‘We have a fa­cil­ity here where we con­vert vans and cars into am­bu­lances,’ she says.

She takes us to a sec­tion of the ware­house where around 2,000 sur­vival kits are sit­ting ready for ship­ment. ‘Each of these kits in­cludes three blan­kets, one tarpaulin, one set of kitchen uten­sils and cut­lery, one jerry can, a rope, soap, a ra­dio for vic­tims to tune into the news re­ports and a phone charger,’ she says. ‘This would be the first re­sponse rushed within 48 hours.’

Marie says that the 2004 tsunami was a turn­ing point in hu­man­i­tar­ian ef­forts world­wide. ‘The aftermath of the tsunami and the large-scale de­struc­tion it left be­hind led to a lot of re­flec­tion on how to man­age a cri­sis,’ she says.

‘One of the most im­por­tant ad­vances in dis­as­ter man­age­ment was the in­tro­duc­tion of the mo­bil­i­sa­tion re­port – this en­sured we don’t duplicate ef­forts and send in sup­plies that were not nec­es­sary or suit­able to the re­gion. Mea­sures were also put in place to bet­ter un­der­stand what other aid agen­cies were do­ing to pre­vent du­pli­ca­tion.’

Marie, who has a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence in the lo­gis­tics and sup­ply chain and has seen some of the worst hu­man­i­tar­ian crises in Chad, Nige­ria and Libya, among oth­ers, says that one of her most mov­ing mo­ments in her ca­reer was when she was part of the team in the Repub­lic of Congo. ‘Ac­cess­ing re­ally re­mote ar­eas by cre­at­ing a road and bring­ing food and wa­ter to the vic­tims of the eth­nic vi­o­lence was ex­tremely dif­fi­cult but to see the joy on the faces of the peo­ple when they re­ceived the aid was so heart­warm­ing. The smiles on their faces make all the trou­bles worth­while,’ she says.

The IHC is con­ve­niently po­si­tioned in Dubai to rush aid to any area in the Mid­dle East, Europe and Africa, says Marie-Laure

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