‘Being prepared’ pays off in Botswana

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02/04/2013 – When unexpected heavy rains recently lashed the usually dry province of Central Botswana, the local Red Cross was the first to respond. Trained disaster management volunteers from the Botswana Red Cross Society (BRCS) swung into immediate action, quickly accessing relief stocks, prepositioned last year in case of disaster.

More than 4 000 people were in need of assistance as traditional mud homes had been destroyed, public buildings, schools and infrastructure were damaged, and crops and livestock were swept away by the strong flood waters. Submerged roads left villages isolated and inaccessible.

Disaster preparedness is a core activity of BRCS, not only because a rapid response saves lives, but it also minimises the impact of disasters on communities, and reduces the long-term costs. With support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), BRCS was able to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the 1,500 most vulnerable people, by distributing tents, tarpaulin, kitchen sets, blankets, mosquito nets, soap, and shelter tool-kits.

The wet conditions, even in relocation camps, left local Red Cross volunteers struggling to set up tents on the water-logged ground. Volunteers trained in first aid treated the casualties of the storm and those injured by their collapsing homes.

“Because of its early response, BRCS has reduced vulnerabilities and stabilised the disaster situation”, says Mabel Rammekwa, BRCS secretary general. “We will continue to preposition relief stocks, and our volunteers are on standby as more rains are expected in the coming weeks.”

The IFRC is supported by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO). For natural disasters, ECHO funds both emergency response as well as community based disaster risk reduction actions. The latter aims at helping communities to better prepare for imminent disasters, as well as building their resilience to recurrent crises.

By Hanna Butler, IFRC and Kefilwe Batsalewang, Botswana Red Cross