Flooding and landslides affected thousands of families across Kenya in April this year. Several hundred people drowned. Up to 60,000 Kenyans were displaced from their homes and lost livestock and valuables.
Even though this story did not merit the attention of the global media, its human and financial cost was vast.
Aid agencies had to somehow find the money to pay for the search, rescue and evacuation operations, and then to house, feed and provide clean water to the 30,000 people who flocked to refugee camps, where they remained for months afterwards. And local economies were devastated:- crops, food stocks, agricultural tools and valuable seeds were swept away and lost forever. Farmland was ruined. Fishermen lost entire stocks of fish, as well as all their equipment. Food prices in the affected areas rose dramatically, so locals became prone to malnutrition, and more likely to succumb to the water-borne diseases which were spreading due to contaminated water sources.
These communities should have been better prepared. Early-warning, hazard-mapping, risk reduction initiatives are all preventative measures which can be taught. Just days after the floods hit, while heavy rains were still falling causing further damage, RedR ran crucial training skills like these for aid workers in the affected areas. These aid workers have since been working with the community to prepare them for next year’s floods.
Thanks to the contributions of many RedR supporters, we have been able to a week's training in Community-based Disaster Risk Reduction for people who had volunteered as rescuers after the Rana Plaza collapse in April.
The course covered topics such as Search and Rescue, Disaster Management, Fire and Safety, and First Aid. Members of the volunteer first responder group participated in the training, learning a range of skills which will help when they respond to future disasters.
RedR offered this training in response to a request from Shahadat Hussein, a Bangladeshi man who had just spent five days and nights pulling survivors from the wreckage of the collapsed iRana Plaza garment factory collapse in Dhaka.
Shahadat is not an employee of the country’s emergency services, nor is he an aid worker. He is a local man who runs a hardware business. When news of the collapsed garment factory broke on local television, he quickly realised that not enough was being done to rescue workers trapped inside the building. He decided to volunteer alongside hundreds of other local people.
Shahadat and the other volunteers saved many lives before the Bangladeshi army stepped in and took over. They improvised search and rescue methods, using their own equipment to drill through the layers of concrete trapping the victims. They worked for hours at a time without proper protection – in dark, airless cavities with no water, boots or hard hats.
“When we found someone still alive inside the building, we did our level best to save that life. This was not an expert rescue. We improvised solutions using any equipment we could.”-Shahadat Hussein
Shahadat was right to seek professional training. The Rana Plaza disaster will not be a one-off occurrence. In June a survey conducted by engineers in Bangladesh revealed that three-fifths of the country’s 600 garment factories are poorly constructed and vulnerable to collapse.
All photos © RedR/GMB Akash
Every election cycle in Kenya since 1990 has been preceded by violence. The disputed general elections in 2007 brought a violent backlash and many deaths.
RedR launched our Election Preparedness Training course out of concern that the latest election would bring more bloodshed, risking the security of thousands of aid workers in Kenya and its neighbouring countries. The course has been run successfully several times in the past year, providing aid workers with the tools to prepare and plan for possible violence, keeping them safer in risky situations.
In addition, we continue to run a range of general security courses, teaching safety skills that are applicable to aid workers whether or not there is an election happening. Personal Safety and Security, Security Management, safety and Security Training, and even Driver Training help to keep humanitarians safe in one of the world's most dangerous professions.