Argentina + 10 more

Pan American Disaster Response Unit Appeal No. 01.47/2003 Programme Update No. 2


Appeal Target: CHF 1,539,402 Programme Update No. 2
Period covered: 1 June

  • 30 September 2003

The Federation's mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. It is the world's largest humanitarian organization and its millions of volunteers are active in over 180 countries. For more information:

In Brief

Appeal coverage: 64%

Outstanding needs: CHF 553,000

Related Emergency or Annual Appeals: 01.49/2003 Caribbean Regional Programmes; 01.50/2003 Central America Regional Programmes; 01.51/2003 South America Regional Programmes.

Programme Summary:

The inhabitants of the Americas and the Caribbean are frequently and adversely affected by natural disasters, living with the ever present threat of hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding, droughts and other natural and socio-economic crises. In this challenging environment, PADRU was designed to support the efficient and effective response to emergencies, providing assistance to National Societies in the region and ensuring high quality disaster response. However, the support of PADRU to disaster management activities of National Societies in Latin America and the Caribbean may soon have to be reduced or even interrupted in some cases due to the insufficient response to the annual appeal in 2003, currently standing at a low 64% of the total yearly budget. PADRU urgently requires additional funding to secure the continuity and consolidation of important disaster management initiatives, implemented and strengthened since the creation of the Unit in 2000. These activities include the strengthening of the logistics capacity of National Societies in the region and the promotion of expertise in the areas of health in emergencies, water and sanitation and telecommunications. From the point of view of response to emergencies, PADRU seeks additional funding to ensure improved planning and mobilization of resources to facilitate coordination, communication and information flow in disasters. Besides highlighting the main activities carried out during this reporting period and their results, this programme update intends to draw donors' attention to the importance of securing the continuation of ongoing activities which are part of a longer-term strategy to enable high quality Red Cross assistance to vulnerable people in one of the most disaster-prone regions of the world. In this regard, the Federation Secretariat urges donors to increase their financial support to PADRU to enable the Unit to accomplish the objective to assist National Societies in the Americas to implement efficient, responsive and focused disaster management, contributing to saving and improving the lives of vulnerable people.

Operational developments

During the reporting period, increased efforts were devoted to the follow up of the commitments in the field of disaster management made during the Inter-American Conference held in Santiago de Chile in April 2003. An important first step in this process was the holding of the "Latin American Meeting of Relief Directors" in Panama, during the first week of August. The meeting brought together disaster management specialists from South and Central America, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Its main purpose was to seek concrete ways to translate the commitments from Santiago de Chile into reality for the Americas by promoting the further development and integration of standards, systems and strategies for disaster preparedness, response and recovery in the region. Meanwhile, PADRU continued to carry out its disaster monitoring activities with particular focus on hurricanes in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Disaster response contingency plans for the 2003 hurricane season in Mexico, Central American and the Caribbean were discussed and agreed in a workshop held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in July 2003. The workshop followed up and built upon a similar successful initiative held in Antigua and Barbuda in 2002. However, the participation in 2003 was improved not only by an increased number of National Societies, but also with the presence of representatives from external organizations present in the region and active in emergency relief . In the field or disaster response, PADRU continued to extend its support to the ongoing relief in the region, responding to severe flooding in Argentina, Panama and Haiti and monitoring the development of disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Disaster Response

Goal: The National Societies of Latin America and the Caribbean are implementing efficient, responsive and focused disaster management, contributing to saving lives and improving the life of vulnerable people.

Objective: The National Societies and the Secretariat, as appropriate, are responding effectively and efficiently to disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean, ensuring a rapid transition from relief to rehabilitation as part of an integrated process for the development of local capacities.

Progress & Achievements

Floods in Argentina: PADRU continues to support the delivery of relief assistance to victims of severe flooding in the province of Santa Fe. During the report ing period, the management of the relief operation transitioned from the initially deployed PADRU team to a Regional Intervention Team (RIT) member from the Ecuadorian Red Cross. The RITs programme continues to demonstrate its effectiveness and added value, contributing to emergency relief operations throughout the entire region.

Social Crisis in Argentina: a team comprising a disaster management delegate and a logistician was deployed by PADRU to carry out an evaluation of the ongoing relief operation. The findings of this evaluation team were then taken into consideration in the revision of the operational plan of action. Meanwhile, all ongoing relief efforts are being managed by a relief coordinator from the Argentine Red Cross itself, previously trained by PADRU as a FACT member. Once again, this example illustrates the positive impact of Federation response training programmes, highlighting their relevance to ensure more effective disaster management in the region by making use of local capacities supported in a well coordinated manner .

Floods in Haiti: following the severe floods which struck the town of St. Marc in Haiti on 30 August, PADRU played a key role in responding to the French Red Cross request for readily available relief goods stored in the warehouse in Panama. The timely response of the PADRU team resulted in a total of 1,200 kitchen sets and the same quantity of hygiene parcels being dispatched to the disaster area within 48 hours of the request being made. This efficient and timely response helped to further consolidate the relationship between PADRU, the French and Haitian Red Cross Societies and ECHO, the donor funding the ongoing emergency activities in that country.

Floods in Panama: on 12 July 2003 intense rains combined with high tides caused severe flooding in the district of Arraijan, located approximately 20 km west of Panama City. The water rose within minutes, forcing families to seek refuge on rooftops. Although the waters receded to normal levels within hours, a total of twelve communities were badly affected by the floods. In coordination with the Civil Defence, the Red Cross Society of Panama immediately provided search and rescue services in the affected areas and psychological support to the victims. The National Society's relief efforts were strengthened by the active involvement of PADRU. The Unit provided a total of 300 kitchen sets and some 500 hygiene parcels and 6,000 bed sheets donated by the American Red Cross. These items had been pre-positioned in the PADRU warehouse in Panama City and were therefore immediately available for distribution, enabling the Red Cross Society of Panama to respond promptly and efficiently to the urgent needs of the affected population.

Support to West Africa Operations:

At the request of the DMC department, a PADRU disaster management delegate was deployed to the West Africa region to support operations. The PADRU delegate was able to help in the organization, facilitation and logistical support to the recently completed regional disaster response team (RDRT) training held in Ghana. The training provided the launching pad for the newly established RDRT programme in West Africa. The training was given to 31 members of the English speaking West African National Societies and focused on all aspects of a relief operation including logistics, water and sanitation and assessment methodology. The course also had a strong emphasis on relief techniques and was supported by the Senior Relief Officer from the Secretariat.

Monitoring of hurricanes and other disasters:

During the reporting period, PADRU continued to monitor developing disaster s and storms such as Hurricanes Isabel and Marty and the earthquake in the Dominican Republic. By continued monitoring and communications with key players such as donors, disaster agencies and National Societies in the region, PADRU continues to develop and strengthen the Red Cross network throughout the region, thereby helping to promote the goal of a stronger disaster network in the Americas as stated in the Santiago de Chile declaration.

National Society support and coordination:

Although the PADRU appeal for 2003 remains under-funded, the Unit continues to receive active support from several National Societies within and outside the region. Some National Societies have been able to actively support the PADRU structure by seconding staff on loan as delegates as in the case of the American, British, Canadian, Spanish and Swedish Red Cross Societies. This human resource support has so far enabled PADRU to manage the needs of the current hurricane season in a highly efficient and effective manner. The PADRU internship programme (pasantia) is also progressing well, serving as a good example of successful knowledge sharing initiative in the region. This internship programme strives to bring in RITs, volunteers and staff from the National Societies in the region to work in PADRU for a limited period of time. During the reporting period, PADRU was supported by interns from the Bolivian, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Jamaican, Mexican and Venezuelan Red Cross Societies. In addition to bringing new skills into the Unit, the internship programme helps to increase the feeling of ownership of Federation and PADRU programmes and projects among the National Societies in the region. The programme also enables PADRU to strengthen the disaster networks in the region through low cost and high impact human resource development. Other ongoing initiatives promoting National Society integration in PADRU are the storage, management and coordination of relief supplies of National Societies in the region and the use of PADRU as a base for emergency response unit (ERU) equipment management, training and storage as in the case of the American Red Cross relief ERU.

Psycho social support: a long-standing volunteer of the Canadia n Red Cross is currently assessing the capacity of the Red Cross National Societies to address the psychological and emotional needs of the survivors of natural disasters in Central and South America. The goal of the proposed project is to investigate how vulnerable populations experience disasters from a psychological and emotional perspective, their main coping mechanisms and needs in the short and long term. It is expected that the findings from such an evaluation can be employed in the future to strengthen existing assistance programmes and serve as a basis for subsequent post trauma mitigation initiatives. The project will determine current programme strengths and explore potential deficits in capacity of the Red Cross to address the psychological needs of affected populations. Based upon findings, recommendations of potential means to strengthen the Red Cross capacity will be put forward. The research, expected to be completed by December 2003, will include field visits and case studies in Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru.

Gender in Disasters: Jointly with the South America delegation's gender officer, PADRU has taken the opportunity during the month of August to meet with colleagues from UNICEF, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and OXFAM in Panama and Nicaragua to identify opportunities and seek active cooperation to design a strategy for Gender in Disasters.

Disaster Response Preparedness

Goal: The National Societies of Latin America and the Caribbean are implementing efficient, responsive and focused disaster management, contributing to saving lives and improving the life of vulnerable people.

Objective: National Societies of the Americas and the Caribbean an d the Federation Secretariat have improved their combined and integrated disaster response capacities and have the required systems, plans, knowledge and resources to effectively respond in the face of disasters.

Disaster Response Planning:

In the field of disaster response planning, a relevant achievement during the reporting period was the holding of a practical workshop to define contingency plans for the 2003 hurricane season. A total of 22 National Societies attended this workshop, illustrating a significant development in efforts to narrow the gap between the Societies of Central America and the Caribbean, traditionally set apart by historical and cultural differences and linguistic barriers. The National Red Cross Societies of the following countries attended the meeting: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Saint Maarten andTurks and Caicos. Representatives of the American, British, Canadian and Spanish Red Cross Societies were also among the participants. Another very positive outc ome of this workshop was the active participation of external organizations, including UNICEF, PAHO, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), ECHO, the Association of Caribbean States, Ericsson and OXFAM. These organizations clearly demonstrated their interest to support and become more actively involved with the Red Cross disaster response network and discussed ways to improve inter-agency coordination mechanisms in disasters to work more effectively together . Finally, during the same week, the Regional Logistics Unit had the opportunity to review together with the American, British and Canadian Red Cross Societies the logistics strategy for the Americas and seek ways to strengthen and consolidate the Logistics Technical Committee, comprising members from the Colombian, German, Mexican and Spanish Red Cross Societies in addition to the three mentioned above.

Information and Telecommunications System:

As a result of the official launch of the Ericsson Response Programme in March 2003, a planning meeting was held between Ericsson and PADRU in August to initiate telecommunications -related ac tivities in Cuba, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. These activities include the training of Ericsson response volunteers in disaster management and the positioning of cellular telephone equipment in the three countries. In September, two follow up meetings were held between Ericsson Response, the Colombian Red Cross and the Cuban Red Cross Society. These meetings set the tone for discussions on how Ericsson and these Societies can work together in the future, in the framework of the global cooperation agreement signed between Ericsson and the Federation Secretariat in order to offer solutions in commun ications during disasters. The negotiations will ensure that National Societies are also able to benefit directly from this key partnership.

Logistics Services and Systems:

The Regional Logistics Unit continues to make significant progress in the consolidation of its services that are increasingly requested by National Societies, the Federation Secretariat and external organizations. In line with the logistic strategy for the Americas, the Unit seeks to build capacities in the National Society by helping them to put in place tools that can permit an adequate logistics support to regular programmes and to emergency response. The preparedness strategy has five major components: to strengthen the regional logistics network; develop professional human resources; build knowledge : improve efficiency with upgraded systems; and to design a mobilization strategy for the region. A practical illustration of the strategy being put into action was the holding of a "Basic Logistics Workshop" for the Mexican Red Cross in August 2003. This workshop, attended by 30 National Society members, aimed at upgrading the National Society's technical capacity in logistics by familiarizing participants with Federation standards and procedures, integrating systems and actively engaging the Mexican Red Cross in the Americas disaster response network. As a result of this initial step, the cooperation between the Mexican Red Cross and PADRU has been optimized, communication flow has improved and the Society is now ready to play a more active role in supporting other National Societies in the region in times of disaster.

During the reporting period, the Unit has also continued to carry out procurement of relief supplies to support ongoing emergency response operations in the region and also on behalf of National Societies upon request. Over the last four months, goods were purchased and dispatched to the National Societies of the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia and Panama. In addition, the Logistics Unit has handled procurement of equipment and supplies in support of PNS bilateral activities in Latin America and the Caribbean, including support to the American Red Cross in the maintenance of pre-position ed relief stocks stored in the PADRU warehouse, procurement of supplies on behalf of the British Red Cross for the Society's activities in Anguilla and also supplying the French Red Cross with basic relief goods. This last example enabled the French Red Cross to carry out its ECHO -funded relief activities in response to the flooding in Haiti in August 2003 in a timely and efficient manner.

Disaster Response Training:

A National Intervention Team (NITs) training course was held in Argentina at the end of July 2003 for a total of 30 participants from different branches of the Argentine Red Cross. The main objectives of the course were to increase the National Society's capacity in disaster preparedness and response and to strengthen national disaster response networks. This training, with a similar curriculum of the RITs programme, was delivered in the context of ongoing emergency relief operations underway in Argentina, intending to bring to the country the same positive impact that the trained teams have had so far in other regions of the Americas and the Caribbean.

The American Red Cross held a relief ERU training course in Panama between 14 and 18 June 2003, organized and delivered in close cooperation with PADRU. Besides assisting with logistical support, the Unit and the Federation Secretariat jointly facilitated the training sessions and provided technical support mainly in the areas of equipment management and telecommunications. This training course marked the effective launch of the first relief ERU in the world. A team consisting of 25 American Red Cross and Federation Secretariat ERU team members is now fully trained and ready to deploy the new relief ERU whenever and wherever needed in the future.

Outstanding Needs

There remain outstanding needs in relation to the annual appeal coverage. The establishment of PADRU has been regarded by many National Societies, within and outside the region, as one of the most significant initiatives to strengthen the Federation's disaster preparedness and response capacity in the Americas. However, PADRU still requires additional funding, particularly for programmes which aim to consolidate key disaster management and capacity building initiatives as a continuation of activities carried out since the Unit was created in 2000. Unless new contributions are received before the end of 2003, PADRU may be obliged to scale down some of its planned and ongoing activities and cancel crucial services which are proving to be highly appreciated and valuable to ensure the high quality of Red Cross assistance to vulnerable people in Latin America and the Caribbean. Three years after the PADRU concept became a reality, tangible results of a wide range of initiatives are starting to become more evident. Some of these initiatives, including for example the continuation of the RITs programme.

Another important development was the final consolidation of the vehicle leasing programme. Efforts are now focusing mostly on the dissemination and marketing of the available leasing options, targeting initially the Red Cross Movement but with the ambition to expand the service to external organizations, using this service to strengthen strategic alliances with key players in the region. PADRU has also finalized negotiations with the Panamanian authorities to obtain a warehouse free of charges in the Free Zone of Colón in exchange for the delivery of warehouse management training to the Free Zone employers. The outcome of the negotiations, initiated and facilitated by the Red Cross Society of Panama, will now enable PADRU to keep strategic relief supplies readily available from the world's second biggest Free Zone. This will have a significant impact in speeding up emergency response efforts in the region, particularly in emergencies when timeliness is of utmost importance to respond to urgent needs of disaster victims.

Water and Sanitation:

Following up on the recommendation from the Santiago de Chile declaration for an increased involvement from PADRU in public health interventions in emergencies, the Unit and the regional delegation for Central America have started to explore areas for widening their cooperation in this crucial area of Red Cross assistance.

The PADRU water and sanitation delegate represented the Federation in the Conference of the International Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, held in Mexico City between 25 and 29 August 2003. The conference gathered over 600 participants from more than 70 countries to review and exchange experience and inform ation on enhancing collection and effective use of rainwater for domestic, agriculture, industry, fresh water ecology and environmental purposes. The relevant conclusions from this conference which can be applied in the context of the Red Cross work will now be taken into consideration of the strategic planning of water and sanitation programmes throughout the Americas.

During the month of September, the water and sanitation delegate is supporting the regional delegation for South America in the evaluation of the Federation's Amazon Basin project, focusing primarily on ongoing water and sanitation projects in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The objective of this evaluation also includes the identification of opportunities to in tegrate new water and sanitation activities with community-based programmes currently underway in the region.

The PADRU internship programme for National Society volunteers and staff members and the roll out of the logistics strategy for the Americas may have to be discontinued unless funding is secured in the near future. Other key functions of PADRU, including monitoring of developing disasters and even emergency relief activities may also be seriously undermined by the lack of funding. Therefore, in order to be able to maintain the high standards of programmes and further consolidate the services run by the Unit in a sustainable manner, it is of extreme importance that donors increase their funding in response to the PADRU 2003 annual appeal.

For further information please contact:

  • Nelson Castaño, Head, Pan American Disaster Response Unit, phone (507) 316 10 01; Fax;(507) 316 1082; e-mail;

  • Olaug Bergseth, Regional Officer, phone (41) 22 730 45 35; fax; (41) 22 733 03 95 e-mail;

All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (SPHERE Project) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable.

For support to or for further information concerning Federation programmes or operations in this or other countries, please access the Federation website at

(in pdf* format - 10 KB)