On behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, I have the great pleasure and privilege being given this opportunity to speak at this important meeting.
Each member State represented at this distinguished gathering benefits from the programs and services of its Red Cross or Red Crescent national society.
In addition, every one of your National Societies forms an integral part of the international Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
I am pleased to note that this global movement is the largest humanitarian organization in the world, with established national societies in 181 countries worldwide. With a Secretariat in Geneva, regional delegations strategically located across the planet, and country delegations supporting national societies in many states vulnerable to natural disasters, the Federation is the umbrella body for all Red Cross and Red Crescent national entities.
Overall, the mandate of the Federation is:
- To support a Red Cross or Red Crescent national society to strengthen its capacity for serving its population
- To assist a national society in responding to natural disasters
- To harmonize the collective actions of Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies by means of coordinated Appeals and subsequent emergency and development programming.
Here in Indonesia, and in line with that mandate, the Federation is supporting the Indonesian Red Cross in building up its own ability to serve the people of this vast and highly-populated country. Indonesian Red Cross - known as Palang Merah Indonesia and referred to by its initials "PMI" - is recognized and valued as the country's leading humanitarian organization.
Your Excellencies, for those who are familiar with the good works of PMI and the standing that it enjoys, there is no doubt that this reputation for its humanitarian work is well-deserved.
Indonesia is prone to natural disasters. Landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, flooding, drought - almost every imaginable natural disaster is a constant threat across the broad territory of this country.
The Indonesian Government has given PMI a specific mandate for responding to natural disasters, and the organization takes this responsibility very seriously. One of PMI's strongest, most mature and reliable resources is the existing set-up of 'SATGANA' or Rapid Response teams that are positioned all over the country, ready to act whenever and wherever they are needed.
These Indonesian Satgana teams are well known for their effectiveness not only domestically in Indonesia, they also set a working example throughout the entire international Movement for their emergency response accomplishments.
PMI's Satgana disaster preparedness teams have been extremely effective in responding to the country's various disaster scenarios, not the least being the tsunami cataclysm that struck northern Sumatra last December. PMI's well-trained and well-organized volunteers were quick to respond under extremely difficult and challenging circumstances.
Yet, as ready as they were, the scope and scale of the Tsunami devastation was an extreme test of their abilities.
In Aceh, history will note that the Indonesian Red Cross was one of the first humanitarian organizations to start up emergency relief operations immediately after the tsunami, with support to PMI from the Federation and the ICRC.
I am sad to say that many Satgana members, PMI volunteers, staff and key leadership in Aceh perished in the tsunami wave. However, regardless of these personal and institutional losses, surviving PMI members immediately began to help the victims - which was an extraordinary demonstration of their dedication and commitment.
As well, the solidarity shown by fellow Red Cross branches all over Indonesia was also significant. Volunteers from these other regions in the country traveled to Aceh to help their colleagues, with an orderly rotation of Satgana teams working in the affected areas. These volunteers performed admirably, and in accordance with the mandate given to PMI by the Government.
From the outset of the calamity, and even to this day, PMI volunteers evacuated dead bodies, transported the injured to medical attention, provided health and medical services in collaboration with ICRC and with Federation emergency response units, distributed relief supplies, and provided missing person tracing services.
Today, as I speak, more than one thousand volunteers are still operating in the area, with almost 46,000 corpses handled, and emergency relief supplied to several hundred thousand beneficiaries through the Red Cross distribution network. I would note that all past and current details of these operations can be accessed in the operational updates posted on the Federation website: www.ifrc.org.
From beyond the borders of Indonesia, the solidarity demonstrated by neighboring countries was significant. Within 24 hours after the deadly wave had receded, volunteer doctors and nurses from the Malaysian Red Crescent and Singapore Red Cross were on site in the disaster zone, assisting in the PMI and Movement response.
The Federation, in line with its standard operating procedures when large-scale natural disasters happen, immediately deployed a FACT team to Aceh to assess the situation and the needs. These FACT teams - Field Assessment and Coordination Teams- are specially-trained groups of professionals constantly on standby to do these emergency rapid assessments.
Members of the host national societies are always integral members of the FACT teams when traveling in-country.
As soon as the immediate needs were identified, a number of Emergency Response Units, sponsored by individual national societies, were dispatched to Aceh to begin a substantive response. The ERUs deliver high-level expertise in medical services, water & sanitation, health, relief and logistic support, and arrive on large cargo aircraft complete with all necessary equipment and supplies.
The Federation coordinates all of these operations, always working in close collaboration and with the approval of the host national society.
These ERU teams were also complemented by personnel from national societies in the region that arrived within a short period of time. A medical team from the Japanese Red Cross moved into the damaged hospital in Meuloboh, and - as mentioned previously - relief teams from Singapore and Malaysia joined the Indonesian Red Cross medical volunteers who set up a clinic in Banda Aceh, and also assisted at Meulaboh.
Total number of people assisted with food and non-food items in Aceh remains 262,940 individuals. More than 95,000 people have received basic or preventive health care from mobile clinics of PMI or the specialized health units.
Many National Societies from all over the world have since communicated their sympathy and solidarity to the Indonesian people through the Indonesian Red Cross. Their support is being expressed through funding and human resources for the emergency phase of the operation, as well as by longer-term commitments to PMI's recovery and reconstruction plans.
This assistance is being provided either through the Federation or directly through bilateral support to the Indonesian Red Cross. Details of those plans, programs and funding can be found in the Federation's revised Appeal which has just been published on www.ifrc.org.
The Federation's role, as specified by the Government of Indonesia, is to coordinate both multi-lateral and bilateral support in its ongoing collaboration with and support of the Indonesian Red Cross. All programs and budgets are aligned with the Government's own Master Plan and in accordance with PMI's needs and with its strategic intent.
By definition of how we work all over the world, the host national society, PMI, is in the driver's seat.
As the extent of the Tsunami catastrophe became clear, it became evident that the Movement's assistance to PMI for the affected areas would span many years. And in line with the government's official plans, PMI indicated an involvement for at least 5 to 7 years.
The PMI tsunami response plan, with financial and human resource support from the Federation and its member national societies, is divided into three phases: emergency, recovery & rehabilitation, and reconstruction phases.
To realize such a comprehensive plan, PMI working with the Federation and ICRC has established a Movement Framework by which all Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies active in the tsunami operation in Aceh have agreed to work within this coordinating structure, which is lead by the Indonesian Red Cross and coordinated by the Federation. Several of the participating national societies have sent their representatives to Indonesia to participate actively in this arrangement.
I also want to take this opportunity to highlight the assistance provided to Indonesia and to the vulnerable people in Aceh and North Sumatra by other Asian Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies who are have been supporting the operation from the outset.
I have already mentioned the Malaysian Red Crescent, who arrived in Aceh shortly after the tsunami hit the region, and has been supporting the Indonesian Red Cross and the victims in various ways, including psychological support, relief supplies and funding for reconstruction.
Assistance from the Singapore Red Cross is not new to Indonesia. This National Society has for many years been assisting PMI programs in Sumatra. Emergency relief and medical support, as well as reconstruction funding are areas of focus for the Singapore Red Cross.
The Japanese Red Cross has also been supporting Federation programs in Indonesia for many years. Building up Satgana teams has been one of the biggest Japanese Red Cross support programs.
And as mentioned, a Japanese medical emergency team arrived in Meuloboh on the devastated west coast of Sumatra within days after 26 December, and they are still operating in the area. Japanese Red Cross will be supporting Indonesian Red Cross in health rehabilitation and in reconstruction.
The Australian Red Cross has a long and venerable history in supporting the Indonesian Red Cross, through the Federation and bilaterally.
After the tsunami, the Australian Red Cross rapidly established emergency communications with the Indonesian Red Cross and with the Federation, collaborating in the identification of needs and the areas where they could support the victims of the tsunami. Their help is going to ambulance services, blood services, water and sanitation, health rehabilitation and reconstruction.
To credit some of the support provided by other Asian Societies:
- Chinese Red Cross: funding and construction of friendship villages Hong Kong Red Cross Branch: health rehabilitation and reconstruction
- Vietnam Red Cross: funding and in-kind support
- Korean Red Cross: reconstruction funding
- East Timor Red Cross: Water and Sanitation expertise.
The continuing and strong support from the Asian Red Cross and Red Crescent societies has been most notable, and without this support, the potential for our emergency operation and the long term recovery and reconstruction phases would not be as prodigious as they are.
And as their countries are members of APEC, we also note the sizable level of funding and expertise forthcoming from the American and the Canadian Red Cross.
These are but a few examples of the huge support coming from all over the world, from governments, as well as from national societies in Asia, Africa, America and Europe.
In addition to the direct support to Indonesian Red Cross, more than 45 National Societies are directing their support through the Federation Appeals for tsunami-affected countries.
We are very much aware of the fact that this solidarity we are experiencing in Indonesia following the tsunami has been a generous reality in all of the countries affected by this appalling disaster, and for that we are thankful.
In conclusion, the role of the Federation in the years to come will continue to be this coordination of our global Movement's support to Indonesia, as well as our ongoing support of the capacity-building of the Indonesian Red Cross.
And after the tsunami, several large earthquakes have since occurred, as well as the resurgence of active volcanoes on Sumatra and other islands of Indonesia. We are aware that new calamities are likely to occur in this vulnerable country, and the Indonesian Red Cross will remain an important actor in the emergency response to these disasters large and small.
With such good neighbors in the Asian & Pacific region, we know that PMI is not alone. In today's inter-connected world, we are confident that we can rely on this support.
The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is by its nature a grass-roots organization. Again and again, we have seen the benefit of having a community-based volunteer organization in the affected areas. We have witnessed this following the tsunami disaster, as well as in hundreds of natural and man-made upheavals to which we respond all around the world.
Red Cross Red Crescent will always be ready to act when and where disaster strikes. This is the message heard by our beneficiaries all over the world. Our neutral, impartial, transparent and accountable grass-roots organization is always ready and prepared to help the most vulnerable, wherever they may be.
On behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, I am honored to be in this position here and now to extend our thanks and appreciation to you all, and to your governments, for the great support that you and your respective national societies have given to the tsunami-affected countries.