By Ly Nguyen and Rosemarie North, IFRC
A large number of Red Cross and Red Crescent regional disaster response team experts from Asia Pacific responded to the devastating April and May 2015 earthquakes in Nepal.
By mid-July, 56 people trained in regional disaster response from 17 countries had supported the Nepal Red Cross Society in the areas of relief and assessment, health, water and sanitation, shelter, IT and telecommunications, gender and protection, logistics, human resources and finance. They joined colleagues from around the world in other teams such as emergency response units and field assessment and coordination teams.
The Nepal response is one of the largest deployments of regional disaster response teams (RDRT) in Asia Pacific in the history of the programme which was established in 2001 to make the most of the capacity of neighbouring countries in disaster management. In Asia Pacific, only the Indian Ocean tsunami operation involved more RDRT members.
Farzana Akther, a team member from Bangladesh, said there are big advantages in deploying people from neighbouring countries. “If a disaster happens and the National Society thinks they need assistance from another country then they can request an RDRT,” she said. “Because Nepal is near Bangladesh and we’re both in South Asia, there are similarities in culture, language and food. So we’re well accepted by people in Nepal which makes it easier to do our job.”
Bangladesh sent 13 experts; Pakistan 11; Australia 5; India 4; Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka 3 each; Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Maldives and New Zealand sent 2 each; with one each from China, Myanmar, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
Thirty per cent of team members were women – an unusually large proportion.
The teams are made up of people from National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Members receive IFRC standardized training that equips them to respond to disasters and support international teams where necessary. They are mobilized within 24-48 hours of a disaster on the request of the National Society in the disaster-hit country.
Han Goo Lee from the Republic of Korea National Red Cross was one of the three regional disaster response team members sent to Sindhuli and Dhading districts in Nepal to prepare for relief distributions.
“It was a very good opportunity to learn from Red Cross Red Crescent friends who have a lot of experience and knowledge,” he said. “And when I am working in the field, it makes me happy every time I see a smile on people’s faces when they receive some support from us. It really encourages me to rush to the disaster spot to make them smile.”
Muhammad Zubair Khan, regional disaster response team leader after the Nepal earthquake, says, “RDRT team members bring a lot of skills, knowledge, experience, flexibility, commitment, dedication and sense of responsibility to relief operations. They really boost our ability and enhance our scope to help people in Nepal affected by the earthquakes.”