Ilmira Gafiatullina in Bishkek
Risk reduction and health emergencies, as well as the need to strengthen the position of Central Asia’s national Red Crescent societies in their relationships with partners were at the top of the agenda when Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro, President of the International Federation, visited to Kyrgyzstan last week.
Suárez del Toro met the presidents of the five Central Asian Red Crescent Societies, as well as regional representatives of the International Federation and International Committee of the Red Cross, who had gathered for their regular meeting, which address the Movement’s priorities in a changing regional context.
The events of the last couple of months, which put Central Asia in general and Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in particular, at the top of the global news, have revealed serious challenges for the national Red Crescent societies as they seek to implement their humanitarian mission in time of conflicts.
Although immediate medical and relief assistance was directed to the victims of the recent unrest, access to people in need was limited.
“We, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, have a duty to speak up on behalf of marginalized communities in front of governments, national and international non-governmental organizations and other partners with whom we cooperate, to make sure that all necessary measures are undertaken to protect the dignity of people affected by natural and social calamities as well as health crises,” Suárez del Toro stressed.
The importance of partnerships was stressed during the Bishkek meeting. It was noted that the efficiency of the Red Crescent societies in responding to humanitarian emergencies as well as their success in community-based activities to reduce the possible impact of natural disasters and health crises partly depends on thoroughly planned and well managed relations with various partners active on the ground and especially with government institutions.
In this connection, the Tajikistan Red Crescent is developing a test case that will hopefully serve as a model for other national societies in the region. It will analyze the changing donor environment inside and outside the country to define the long-term commitments of various parties in funding humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations.
It will then seek to guide the whole process of delivering this assistance and ensuring that the most needed aid reaches every marginalized community.
“The country assistance strategy is a recurrent and dynamic process aimed at ensuring that the support provided by partners, local and international, to a National Society is coherent and contributing in the most effective way to improving the well-being of the vulnerable,” explained Frank Kennedy, head of the International Federation’s regional delegation for Central Asia.
At an audience with the Kyrgyzstan Deputy Prime Minister for social affairs, Suárez del Toro called on the new Kyrgyz Government to provide essential support to the national Red Crescent. He said this was linked to the urgent need to strengthen the legal status of the Kyrgyz Red Crescent society.
“During the latest events on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border we have seen the Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent acting effectively in close cooperation with the governmental emergency and health structures,” the Deputy Prime Minister, Mrs Ishengul Boljurova, said. “We appreciate an immediate response provided by the Red Cross and Red Crescent to Uzbek refugees”.
She also assured the Federation president that the new Kyrgyz Government would soon examine the question of strengthening the national Red Crescent’s status.
At the same time, to maximize their effectiveness in delivering humanitarian assistance, the International Federation is helping the Central Asian Red Crescent Societies to strengthen their capacities in responding to disasters and health emergencies, management and financial systems, volunteer recruitment and training, as well as fund-raising initiatives.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan each face specific challenges locally. However, common to each country is widespread poverty, high rates of long-term unemployment and poor access to quality health care and education. The five Red Crescent Societies have given priority to activities in the field of health, disaster preparedness and strengthening the capacity of volunteers in communities.
Significant work has being done by the Central Asian Red Crescent Societies over the past decade in relief, disaster response and health prevention. Their focus is now shifting towards developing long-term programmes in the fields of complementary healthcare, including HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis prevention; support to patients through a network of visiting nurses and outreach workers; home care for the growing number of vulnerable elderly and disabled people; and preparedness and risk reduction in disaster-prone areas.
“To meet rising challenges in the region, in a rapidly changing economic and political environment, we will continue to support the Red Crescent Societies in their efforts to mitigate the risks and effects of natural disasters, fight the spread of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS and help hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people,” Suárez del Toro stressed.
A change process was initiated in the Central Asian Red Crescent societies four years ago, when with the support of the Federation, they began to revise their statutes and structures, including the division of governance and management. The Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent Society became the first national society in the region to introduce a new organizational structure, bringing a younger, more enthusiastic generation into managerial positions.
In the coming years the most crucial issue for the five Red Crescent Societies will be the implementation of their revised statutes. But they will still be meeting the needs of the most vulnerable sections of the communities in which they work.
“In their daily work the national societies will continue to improve their capacities and quality of their service to be proactively involved in disaster preparedness and mitigation, both natural and social, as well as prevention of rising health challenges in the region,” Frank Kennedy explained.