Preparedness training helps Red Cross provide life-saving assistance following Gabon elections

Published: 5 September 2016 12:15 CET

By Mirabelle Enaka Kima, IFRC

A nurse by profession, Kassa Kassa Ida joined the Gabonese Red Cross as a first aid volunteer ten years ago.

With her sound experience in emergency relief operations, she was identified to be part of the front base team providing first aid assistance to those affected by violence that erupted in Libreville and Port-Gentil following the announcement of results of the presidential elections in Gabon.

“I am on a team of ten volunteers providing first aid to victims and transporting them to the nearest healthcare centre for proper care,” says Ida. “Since the beginning of the elections, an open call service was set up to facilitate information sharing between field teams, and between Red Cross volunteers at the base and the general public. This allows us to receive timely information on affected areas and victims which ensures we prepare the appropriate first aid equipment and treatment for accurate assistance.”

Preparedness training aids in response

Just like the other 100-plus volunteers deployed for this operation, Ida benefited from a refresher training on first aid. She also attended field simulation exercises that were organized as part of a preparedness contingency plan put in place by the Gabonese Red Cross for the elections. Training on communication techniques was also included, particularly in situations that could result from violent situations. 

“The Red Cross is well known in Gabon, so we haven’t witnessed any resistance or rejection from the public. On the contrary, our presence reassures them. Some are happy to see that we are at their disposal for assistance, while others have expressed words of encouragement.”

Apart from Libreville and Port-Gentil where clashes flared-up following the announcement of the election results on 31 August, growing acts of violence are being reported in cities like Lambarene, Oyem and Makokou. State buildings and businesses have been burned, and civil unrest and clashes between people and security forces have led to shootings.

The Central Africa office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) supported the Gabonese Red Cross by providing technical support in election preparedness activities, which were funded through the IFRC Disaster Relief Emergency Fund.

Because of its community-based presence, the Red Cross has been the key humanitarian organization to respond to the surge in violence.

“Our teams keep responding to alerts as they receive them, and this is not without risk,” says Ida. “However, we make sure that any potential risks are known before intervention as required by safety rules.”