By Tamara Braunstein
The American Red Cross is helping National Societies in Latin America plan for the potential damage that storm season may bring.
When Tropical Depression 12-E passed over Central America in October 2011, dumping heavy rainfall and leaving deadly floods in its wake, Salvador Molina and his community of Santa Maria, El Salvador, rushed to the aid of neighboring town Chilama Sur.
“Before the Red Cross came here, we weren’t always sure what to do. Thank God at that time we had no casualties or damage to housing, but it was a great experience to be able to help our neighbors when we were OK,” said Molina.
Through the Latin America Risk Reduction Activity (LARRA) program, the communities of Santa Maria and Chilama Sur received training in how to prepare for and respond to disasters that are common to the region, such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.
In the Latin America and Caribbean region, where more than 12 million people were affected by disasters in 2010 alone, the American Red Cross is working with other National Societies through LARRA and other disaster preparedness initiatives to build safer and more resilient communities in 10 countries.
With both the frequency and severity of disasters projected to increase in the near future, it is even more imperative for the world’s most vulnerable communities to become better prepared. Working with local field teams, the American Red Cross is training communities on best practices in disaster mitigation, from bolting furniture to walls and securing roofs, to reinforcing flood banks and digging drainage canals.
“We work with communities to identify key needs, vulnerabilities and existing resources to get a better understanding of how we can strengthen resilience before disaster strikes in the region,” said Guillermo Garcia, director of the Latin America and Caribbean region for the American Red Cross.
The American Red Cross is now taking the next step in its life-saving disaster preparedness programming with an innovative integrated approach. Throughout the coming year, more than 100 communities across 10 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are participating in assessments designed to better engage residents in determining their vulnerabilities and plotting the best course to improve their disaster resilience.
“With the new assessment we’re rolling out, we want to pursue a more integrated approach to our programs including disaster preparedness, water and sanitation, shelter, health, and livelihoods,” said Garcia. “The end result will inform not only our region, but our partners and American Red Cross programs worldwide in how to more effectively consider community input and respond to community needs toward our ultimate goal of creating more resilient communities.”