Essential training for aid workers in East Africa

by RedR

“If well-planned for, Hazards need not be Disasters” – participant on Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction course.

RedR’s office in Nairobi, Kenya, trains and supports aid workers and community leaders throughout East Africa. Recently, RedR delivered a five-day participatory training course in Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Nairobi for WESCOORD, a body that coordinates the Water and Sanitation response of government, UN, and NGOs in Kenya. In addition to WESCOORD representatives, participants included senior leadership of health and water departments of the Government of Kenya as well as staff of the water board.

Participants learned about reducing disaster risk through assessing the context of a disaster, as well as likely hazards. They also delved into ways of encouraging the community to participate and give their input when assessing disaster risk, as well as how to identify the particular vulnerabilities or capacities of segments of the population.

The course covered aspects building collaborative relationships and forming a national disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategy. These topics were of particular relevance to these particular trainees because of collaborative role in deciding national DRR strategy.

Participants also learned and practiced planning, measuring, and implementing a successful DRR program, learning from widely-accepted best practice on the topic.

As a result of attending the course, many of the trainees have said they plan to implement its lessons into their jobs. Some of the participants mentioned that they would pass on the lessons to members of their team and enhance the collaborative relationships at work to improve effectiveness. Several participants said they would promote the engagement of their local communities in DRR and get more involved in the discussions and meetings themselves.

Trainees came away from the course with steps they plan to take to incorporate the knowledge and skills they gained in the training. Here is a small sample of what participants are planning to do:
•    Train Community Health Workers on applying the basic principles of Disaster Risk Reduction
•    Implement projects which address future disasters and integrate DRR into other projects
•    Collaborate with other sectors to help in Disaster Risk Reduction
•    Develop a strategy plan for community-based disaster risk reduction
•    Initiate and regularize a DRR forum and advocate for resource allocation to DRR
•    Train, mobilize, and coordinate partners and staff to improve our county's capacity on DRR
•    Write a proposal to mobilize resources for DRR and integrate my day to day activities with DRR activities so as to reduce risks and hazards
•    Train at district and county level on DRR issues and its application.
•    Set up a DRR committee in the county with other line ministries
•    Share with my colleagues in health (Government of Kenya & partners) and how to implement it to curb the recurrent drought
•    Include DRR component in project recommendations
•    Influence policy direction and resource mobilization. To coordinate better DRR activities at County level

One of the participants commented that they learned that “Disaster preparedness and risk reduction is important and should be integrated into national planning.” Many participants echoed the idea of integrating DRR activities and messages in every activity. Another lesson highlighted by many participants was that it is important “to always plan development activities in partnership with the beneficiary community.” Many other participants mentioned feeling inspired and motivated by the course: “The training has really empowered me as a manager at county level to participate and contribute ideas on how to form a disaster risk plan / strategy.”

Flooding in Kenya  UNHCR/B. Bannon
Flooding in Kenya UNHCR/B. Bannon

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.


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.

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Organization Information


Location: London, n/a - United Kingdom
Project Leader:
Helen Varma
London, London United Kingdom

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