Macedonian skills make a difference in Banda Aceh

Published: 25 February 2005 0:00 CET

Yrsa Grüne in Banda Aceh

Antonio Dodevski and Oliver Gichevski from the Macedonian Red Cross didn’t hesitated for a moment when they received the phone call.

One month on, their enthusiasm has been vindicated: “The best thing with this mission has been the happy look on people’s faces,” says Antonio.

Both are part of a joint Austrian-Macedonian-Swedish water and sanitation team providing potable water to thousands of people in the tsunami-devastated city of Banda Aceh.

It is now time for all the team members to head back home. Looking back on the past month, the only difficulty the two Macedonians say they’ve encountered was getting used to Indonesian food in the first few days.

“There is so much rice. And the food is very spicy as well,” says Oliver.

This is not his first experience working with the International Federation. In 1999 he was involved in the Kosovo operation in his native Macedonia, helping to provide clean water for the refugee camp in Stenkovac.

Now he is an employee of the Macedonian Red Cross in Skopje and responsible for its disaster preparedness programmes.

Antonio is a mountaineer and volunteer. He is also the leader of a rescue team in the city of Ohrid.

Both of them participated in a water and sanitation workshop organized jointly by the Austrian Red Cross and Macedonian Red Cross in September last year. The other participants came from Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia and Bulgaria.

When Antonio received the phone call about a mission in Indonesia, he said yes immediately. “I had been alerted in advance but there was no decision until two hours before the last bus was leaving Ohrid for Skopje,” he says.

For Oliver it was easier, he lives just a few blocks away from the office. They were recruited as part of the Austrian Red Cross team in the joint Austrian-Swedish WatSan team.

After four weeks in Banda Aceh they feel sad to leave, and say they would have stayed longer if needed. “Our team is great. It has been really nice to have the opportunity to work together,” they say.

Antonio has attached a white cloth to his Macedonian Red Cross cap and asked all team members and a few more to write their names on it.

Maybe the challenges in the beginning brought the team members even closer together. Initially they were planning to go to Calang, but after an assessment they realized that it was not the best option.

“We were looking for a location were we can use the full capacity of our team because together with the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), we can provide a wide range of services,” says Andreas Hattinger of the Austrian Red Cross and leader the water and sanitation team.

The team decided to look for other options than Calang. They did not have to look very far. In early February the PMI and the team assumed responsibility for the water distribution point at a bridge in Banda Aceh previously operated by the Australian army.

The PMI and the Austrian-Macedonian-Swedish team have been reinforced by a few volunteers from the Malaysian Red Crescent.

More than 50,000 litres of water are distributed daily to various locations in Banda Aceh. The water distribution point itself is open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. for people who want to come and fetch water themselves.


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