The year 2013 saw a number of disasters affecting the country. Thousands of lives were lost and huge damages incurred by way of destruction of houses, live stocks, crops and other infrastructure. The Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) was present with relief and rehabilitation measures in all situations. Faced with the fact that India lies in the most disaster prone region, IRCS on a regular basis trains people from various walks of life, in disaster management to build capacities to face such situation. As part of the ongoing capacity building efforts under the disaster management programme, IRCS national headquarters (NHQ) conducted three regional level trainings on national disaster response team (NDRT) and warehouse and logistics management whereby 51 participants were trained which will further contribute towards enhancing their disaster response capacity. Twelve DM programme states have shown good progress in implementation of the planned programme activities for this year except Chhattisgarh and Andaman & Nicobar island branch. The first medical responders (FMR) initiative rolled out in 2011 has become an integral part of the IRCS’ disaster response mechanism. The FMR network was established in 13 DM programme states, while in Uttarakhand state the existing FMR network was further strengthened.
With the roll out of the FMR has initiative a new dimension of response mechanism. It is evident that the FMR concept will be the back bone of the national society’s response mechanism. During the Uttarakhand flash floods response in 2013, the trained first medical responders responded immediately after the disaster and continued to work in small groups on their own until mobile communication was restored. The taste of success has made the volunteers, staff and IRCS management think on other aspects of FMR and its linkages with overall disaster response mechanism of IRCS.
Three humanitarian emergencies which required Red Cross interventions stretched the capacities of the national society. Throughout the year focus was on delivering relief services like first aid, navigation assistance, family news service, distribution of non-food items (NFIs), water purification and distribution to the most vulnerable people affected by the Uttarakhand floods, Jammu and Kashmir earthquake and cyclone Phailin. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) put in its best efforts to mobilize resources and facilitate in providing surge capacity to the national society to enable them to deliver assistance to the affected population.
The Red Cross efforts have been acknowledged by the government authorities and the communities which have given a sense of satisfaction to the volunteers which are the backbone of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. While Red Cross volunteers and the organization as a whole successfully met the needs of the vulnerable population, there are also lessons learnt in the area of overall operations management including volunteers management, supply chain management and reporting. These lessons are expected to contribute and direct the development of disaster response mechanism of IRCS in coming years. Due to humanitarian emergencies which required IRCS interventions planned activities like national disaster water and sanitation response team (NDWRT) training, automation of warehouses for packaging and goods handling could not be achieved.
In 2013, IRCS has taken significant steps to scale up sanitation interventions in India. In effect to this, dialogue has been established with various actors to explore new partnerships for sanitation programme. A consultant was hired to scope IRCS interventions in the pilot phase. A proposal has been developed and shared with potential donors.
In India, the national society’s position in the area of disaster management is crucial. This is due to its countrywide service delivery mechanism through volunteers and branches, and initiatives such as the NS unique post graduate diploma course on disaster preparedness and rehabilitation, which is being offered in affiliation with Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University. Appreciating the crucial position of IRCS in the area of disaster management, as well as its auxiliary status to the Government of India (GoI), the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), established under the Disaster Management Act 2005, by the Government of India, is partnering with IRCS. The potential areas of partnership identified are short-term GIS courses, PG diploma course on disaster preparedness and rehabilitation, documentation and research of disaster response activities.
Under the health & care programmes, IRCS continues to implement the India tuberculosis (TB) programme in 12 districts and 6 state branch headquarters (sub- urban areas) across six states. As per the initial plan, the TB programme was rolled out in seven states targeting 14 programme districts and 7 state branch headquarters. The TB programme was discussed for implementation in Bihar state, however, another emergency of larger magnitude struck Bihar i.e. monsoon flash floods in September 2013. Due to this emergency, IRCS had to shift its immediate focus on the flood relief operation which required more attention. Hence, this caused delays in implementing the TB project in Bihar state in second half of 2013.
IRCS supported 980 of the annual target 1,180 patients and their families in accessing the DOTS treatment. Current reports indicate that the programme via IRCS is achieving about 98 per cent patient adherence rate.
During the reporting period the social mobilization efforts to support the measles catch up campaign evidenced the completion of the campaign, covering 18 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Prior to the campaign the state branch trained 453 volunteers in the aforesaid districts, who in turn reached out to around 942,527 people in the designated catchment areas assigned to IRCS with information on measles, dates and venues of immunization and clarified myths which are prevalent in the target communities. As a result 1,049,990 children have been immunized.
As part of organization development, the IRCS’s National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2013-16, has been further reviewed by IRCS senior management. The final approved version of the IRCS’s NSDP will be printed in early 2014. Capacity building on volunteer management was incorporated into the Uttarakhand floods and cyclone Phailin response and relief operation proposals. IFRC provided technical support and facilitated the Vodafone grant agreement to IRCS for distribution of 2,800 family packs as part of the cyclone Phailin emergency response and relief operation. Likewise, volunteering in emergencies was introduced in the NDRT training curriculum. IRCS is drafting a concept paper detailing the blueprint for Junior Red Cross (JRC)/Youth Red Cross (YRC) and volunteer development, which will include reviewing current efforts by the branches and then develop a blueprint for strengthening it.
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of IRCS and the St John Ambulance (India) was held May 2013. The Honourable President presented awards to 26 IRCS and St. John Ambulance, India members, volunteers, and branches in recognition of their committed services. Likewise, the IRCS district/ union territory (UT) branch secretaries meetings were held in New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata on 22 November, 2 December and 9 December 2013 respectively. These meetings provided a platform whereby important issues such as status of implementation of uniform rules, fund raising activities, taxation matters, blood services, membership drives, first aid trainings, status of utilization of development grants, strengthening of JRC and YRC, etc. were discussed. The aim of the meetings were to receive feedback on the main activities of the branches, their challenges and discuss the way forward in order to strengthen the coordination between the IRCS NHQ and the state/UT branches.
IRCS was supported to update its website with a section dedicated to cyclone Phailin response and relief operation news & updates (http://www.indianredcross.org/cyclone.htm). SARD Regional Communication Manager had made field visits shortly after the disaster and produced web stories on the cyclone Phailin relief and response operation which in turn facilitated more domestic and international media coverage on the needs of the affected people and Red Cross field operations. For details on the web stories please refer to the below links.